The Guilt, Truths, and Hope of Christmas
This Christmas season was in many ways like the usual craziness of recent years. Lots of shopping to do, busy December schedule including birthday for the oldest child, Sunday school responsibilities filling in any empty spaces. Work, parenting, married stuff – typical year.
A few things were tweaked, though, for 2016.
This year I was co-chair of the Sunday school. So the success of the Christmas Eve service was weighing on my shoulders and I could feel it.
This year my oldest was turning 13 and the teenage aura was descending on us like a slow-moving storm we had seen coming in the distance for months. That has been heavy.
This year in mid-December I spent a week taking care of sick children who had strep and this was followed up by an icy weekend and 2 snow-days with kids home from school. The part about sick kids actually wasn’t much different from other years but I always fail to schedule it in so it stressed me out since I had planned on getting a lot of shopping done that week.
And if you are stressed out about the news/politics of the day, insert that in here.
I didn’t have much time for writing, but I was jotting some things down here and there. Here’s my version of The 12 Days of Christmas except it’s about my 2016 Season of Advent full of unexpected “gifts.”
(Sing it in your head to the tune of 12 Days of Christmas:)
In the Season of Advent, I thought I had a plan!
But then there was
TEN volleyball practices
NINE shopping trips
EIGHT days trapped at home
SEVEN Christmas programs
SIX dead strands of tree lights
FIIIIIIIIIVE …. SUUUUU~PRISE BIIIIIIIIILS!!
FOUR hours of health insurance applications
THREE sick kids
TWO icy snow days
And a child turning 13 years old!
There was plenty to think about. And when it came to wanting to get Christmas ‘right’, I really wanted to celebrate the season in light of the coming Savior. Our culture was drowning in “Christmas” but a lot of it didn’t feel quite right. Was I acknowledging Christmas as a Christian or a consumer?
Once we were in the thick of it I was having tons of guilt. Christmas is the chief holiday that demands happy feelings. This is especially problematic for those of my friends and family who struggle with this time of year for one reason or another. Due to a heartbreaking loss they had to endure or a hurtful church experience, there are plenty of reasons for this season to be painful.
On the contrary I don’t generally struggle with depression this time of year except that half the time I’m beating myself up because I’m worried I’m not “doing it right.” So much law piled upon us, a friend said. More and more law in all these lists and pinterest-perfect moments moms are supposed to be creating. Unless you can grasp hold of the Gospel that is buried deep in the center, the law becomes the focus.
How could I get to the Gospel buried deep in this month?
I knew I wasn’t in the Word as much as I could be, but when I was it was stale and forced. I read anyway, and meditated on Isaiah’s prophetic phrases. In the midst of my running around, I thought and prayed about how thankful I was for God-made-man and that my imperfect Christmas was acceptable because I have been made acceptable by my Savior.
But it still felt off.
The turning point might have been when I spilled my guts to a Twitter friend who reminded me this side of the cross everything is different. We are celebrating God-With-Us because He came to us, rescued us out of our sinful, helpless, imperfect ways and gave us new life that begins TODAY and goes on into ETERNITY. – Oh and Satan hates this so he is doing everything He can to mess with the truth this month.
And then on Christmas day something else clicked. So much of the talk this season is about hope and the good of people. Songs tell of cheerful smiles and gay happy greetings. Of friends and family gathering for traditions that include sleigh rides and gift giving. And indeed that all sounds like a delightful Norman Rockwell painting.
But what I’m celebrating, what makes this holiday different for those of us who worship the Christ-child, is not a hope in the world. It’s the hope in Emmanuel. Hope in my God and His plan and His never-ending love. What I’m celebrating and putting all my hopes in is not man’s ability to rise above the mire and the muck that plague our daily lives. Relying on people is a basketful of disappointment. I know because I’ve been let down plenty of times.
The only one in whom I can put all my hope and faith is my faithful, everlasting God. He loves me, He came to me, He forgives me, and He’s put up the biggest fight for me. Satan crouched at the foot of that feeding trough and challenged that boy and His family and friends over and over. But Christ stood firm in the goodness and love of God and Satan’s foothold on the world was lost. Christ came to crush the head of Satan and He succeeded, FOR US. Christ comes to us, for us.
This is that moment where it’s easy to make the Bible about me because I might think of myself as the rescued damsel in distress. But the story was and remains about my God and His incredible plan. It’s about how He manages to turn even my heart, some of the time, to see what this holiday should be. It’s about how He is powerful and mighty enough to raise the Gospel out of the depths of where our society has buried it, and the Spirit allows us to see the Truths of eternity for what they really are. Whether we ‘did Christmas right or not’ my God has not abandoned me. In fact He comes close to me and reassures me of HIS perfect love in the face of my imperfect life.
These truths energize me. They propel me into the crazy after Christmas where we travel and celebrate and spend much more family time together than usual (this can be rough). These truths invigorate me to forgive and serve and allow me the freedom I need to do what needs to be done.
This crazy month when I was scrambling to make it all work, to juggle the weight and the new challenges, I was more in-tune with the Advent Season and Christmas than I realized. I was putting my hope and prayers in the One who can and does change hearts and save souls. He comes to us no matter how well we’ve prepared for Christmas day or how many unexpected moments popped up this season. So thankful for a God who rises above what we’ve made this season out to be, to show us who He really is.