Thanksgiving is over, the month of December is in full swing, and that means one thing: the “Christmas season” is officially upon us. Christmas seems to bring out some different reactions – It seems you either love it or hate it. You either anticipate it all year long, or you dread the idea of it. You’re either all about it, or you’re a “Scrooge.”
When I was growing up, Christmas day & the entire holiday season leading up to it was the absolute best time of the year, hands down. I can still remember the anticipation & pure excitement as a young kid – I always enjoyed helping decorate the tree, the significant time off from school, wondering what presents I might get that year…and the list goes on. Once I moved away from home, the greatest part was that it was the one time of year where I knew for sure we would all be together as a family (the older you get, the less often that happens). I just always viewed Christmas as…well, perfection. What could be better than guaranteed family time, a great meal where you always eat too much, opening gifts that you probably wouldn’t buy for yourself, and watching others get excited over the presents you bought them? Oh – and Jesus is involved, too…because it’s really about Him and everything. (Sarcasm intended). But it was a perfect holiday – and I always wondered, how could anyone not look forward to it or get excited about it???
But over the last couple years, because of some difficult experiences that God has led me through, I have realized that the holiday season is most likely the single hardest time of the year for more people than we would probably know. People who have faced certain circumstances & hardships that have forever changed the perspective they bring toward the holiday season. For those who fall into this category, the idea of Christmas can be summed up in one word: Pain. I’m sure there are countless people who feel a little sense of dread when the temperatures start to drop and Wal-Mart starts placing all the decorations on the shelves way too early. People who have been deeply wronged by a former spouse, people who haven’t seen certain family members in years for one reason or another, people who are barely living paycheck-to-paycheck and don’t have the money to buy their loved ones special Christmas gifts. There are parents who have lost children to miscarriages, illness, or other reasons. Any of these situations, among others, has permanently changed the feeling of the holiday season for countless individuals from one of excitement, anticipation, and joy…to a time of year where pain, grief, and hurting are magnified. It’s a revolving door that hits them in the back every single year.
The pain is very real. The dread is real. But I have to believe that a large cause for the heightened angst toward the holiday season lies in what the focus of the Christmas holiday has become in our nation. It’s all about being “happy,” right? It’s about spreading “Christmas cheer,” it’s all about the presents we receive. As the popular Christmas song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But for far too many, this is likely the most miserable time of the year. Whether you dread the holidays because of the pain it brings, or whether you just find yourself stressed out with the busyness of decorating, baking, and shopping, we can all find comfort in what Christmas is really about. And that also, can be summed up in one word: Peace.
My previous view of “Christmas perfection” only included Christ as some sort of peripheral ingredient to the big picture. My happiness was rooted in the material things. The fact that Jesus was a part of it all just made it that much better. But in reality, Christ has never been just a part of the big picture – Instead, the entire picture is Christ. It’s that humanity is sick with sin. Our world is cursed. We are all in pain because we have all experienced the effects of sin one way or another – whether by sins we ourselves or others have committed, or just by the effects of the fall (sickness, death, etc). But Jesus Christ – the Son of God, who is God – was really, literally born as a baby on this earth. He truly took on human flesh…so that He could live a perfect life, die for my sins in my place, and rise from the dead. Why? Well, not so that He could make my life easy. Not to make my life pain-free, or free of the trials or hard times. But He came to this earth to give me life. To give me hope. To give me peace.
- – “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
- – “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah … from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days … And He shall be their peace.”
- – “…In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace.”
This doesn’t mean that the pain will disappear. This also doesn’t mean that feeling pain, sadness, or heartache is wrong. Jesus knows & understands our hurt – He died for the very sin that caused it. But it does mean that even though my painful circumstances might not change, my perspective of the holiday season can change & I can have peace in Christ in the midst of the pain in my life. So while there are countless people in our world who equate the Christmas season with pain, my prayer is that some will find the holiday is infinitely more than a day of happiness, gift-giving, and family time; it’s about the God of the universe stepping into our world as a peaceful baby – to offer us the only source of real peace (). And that is what makes this the most wonderful time of the year!
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (ESV)
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
5 And he shall be their peace.
When the Assyrian comes into our land
and treads in our palaces,
then we will raise against him seven shepherds
and eight princes of men; (ESV)
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (ESV)
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)