It’s the time of year when the world waits expectantly. We wait for presents, we wait for festive events, we wait for family gatherings, we wait for joyous time with friends. We carefully craft our schedules to make sure we fit in all of these wonderful blessings of a busy holiday season.
But what happens when those things to which we’ve become accustomed don’t come? When we don’t get what we expected. When things don’t quite work out as we thought they would.
Indeed – that has been the reality of most of the world this entire year, and certainly during this holiday season. Beloved Christmas traditions, parties, and celebrations are not possible in the same ways this year. We feel a sense of unease, loss, sadness, confusion, loneliness… but must we? Should we?
Without the typical merriment of togetherness, it can feel difficult (even, perhaps, daunting) to mark Christmas this year. So much of the holiday has always been wrapped up in parties and activities and shopping and concerts and meals. Not so much this year, however. We find ourselves needing to embrace the Grinch’s realization that “…Christmas… perhaps, means a little bit more.” The truth is, I hate that this statement is such an over-used cliché, as I think the world continues to hijack it and we lose the reality of the message. We still aren’t champions of a genuine, authentic Christmas celebration.
…But we can be!
What is it, exactly, that we are waiting for? What is it that we expect of the Christmas holiday each year? This year, in particular, affords us the special (perhaps even once in a lifetime) opportunity to have an abundance of time to dedicate ourselves truly and humbly to the celebration of our expectant Emmanuel.
What deep joy we can have in this: the awesome gift of Christ! It is for good reason we mark time using BC and AD! What an incredible distinction of existence for the world. This is what we celebrate at Christmastime. The coming of humanity’s life-giving, world-altering Savior.
Matthew 11 tells us that He came to give us rest. Think about that. Rest. To me, that incapsulates only positive things: things like peace, contentment, comfort, security. These things are possible through salvation in Jesus. What better gift could possibly exist? It is in this spirit that we are charged to keep Christmas.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” — Matthew 11: 28-29
Decorate the tree and remember the meaning of the special ornaments. Read the Christmas story by candlelight on Christmas Eve. Love your neighbors and give charitably to a cause that is meaningful to you. Dance your own “Nutcracker” ballet in your living room. Enjoy a Christmas morning snuggle with your spouse and kids. Take a quiet walk through the neighborhood to see the festive lights. Listen to Christmas hymns and learn the stories behind them. Instead of filling our lives with the noise of modern society’s expectations of “what Christmas is”, let’s happily expect our coming Lord and Savior, who came to save the world. A little baby – Jesus. There is yet plenty to do and to celebrate. We can truly expect nothing but a deeply joyous and restful holiday… exactly what His intention was.
“O Come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lovely exile here. Until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel