Not sure if you’ve heard, but… Christmas is drawing near. I’ve a house-full of children and almost as many opportunities to hear the updated count down to Christmas tally. Calendars have always been a source of angst in our home; mostly due to the constant struggle to be the one to mark the passing of a day. No, I am serious, epic fights have broken out, subversive techniques employed, and I dare-say, the children are not above calendar sabotage. They like marking the passing of time, I’m sure there must be some condition which explains their behavior 😉
Enter Christmas into the equation and, for a little while, it seemed things were about to go atomic. Thankfully, we have (almost) enough calendars to give each their own territory. My little Joel doesn’t want to miss one iota of Christmas fun. He’s an early riser, every morning he will meet me in the living room with a hug-greeting then promptly tell me in a not-quite-whisper, “Mom, there is _____ days until Christmas.”
Mind you, it’s still dark and he can’t see one of the MANY calendars or count downs… he’s just so excited that calculating the new total is the first thing on his mind. Given his enjoyment of his fourth birthday, I really shouldn’t be surprised. And with Joel it isn’t all about the presents, though I know he will like those, it is about all the experiences each step of the way as the “big day” approaches.
I’ve read many people reflect on their favorite part of the Christmas season. From special parties, giving gifts, Christmas cookies, holiday music, candlelit Christmas Eve services, receiving presents, family meals, light displays, Christmas cards, vacation, family gatherings, Christmas movies, caroling, snowman building, reading scripture of Jesus’ birth… the list of “Christmas Favorites” goes on and on.
As we know all too well, Christmas can also be a time of busyness, distractions, sorrow, fighting and disappointment. If you aren’t careful the extra stress, additional activities, and financial strain can throw a strong “bah, humbug” in your “Merry Christmas.” Family tensions and broken relationships turn celebrations into wars. Suffering from hardships, illness, and loss can make the holiday especially hard to navigate.
And for me, in the last few years, here is where Advent meets me… in the expectation… in the distraction… in the suffering… and prepares me for the coming. The coming of Christ… when God, in human flesh, came…. when joy came.
As the angels proclaimed to the shepherds, so too is the message spoken right to my heart, “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy..”
So much more than an emotion brought on by good fortune; so much more than a state of happiness; so much more than a cause for delight. Sometimes the sum of the parts don’t seem equivalent to the whole and while these may be the parts of the definition of joy, it sure doesn’t capture the total of the reality.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
“She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23
…tidings of great JOY!
Sometimes we may struggle to remember “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Loss and pain can overwhelm any desire to celebrate. Circumstances and trials seem to thwart our merriment this Christmas season. But I am so relieved in the realization that we don’t make Christmas joyful. Christmas is joyful because Christ has come.
God, in this time of Advent, as we draw nearer to the celebration of Christ’s birth, restore to us your joy. Where there is sorrow, give us solace in you. Where there is busyness, grant our souls rest in your presence. Where there is excitement, let us rejoice in your love. In the count down to Christmas, draw us ever nearer, deepen our love for you and grow our love for one another. Amen.