It seems like the holidays sneak up on us every year. Along with the choruses of “It’s December already?” and the shopping scramble, kids are wrapping up finals, businesses are closing the quarter, and churches prepare for their chance to reach the “Christmas and Easter” crowd. In the midst of the busyness, though, the reason we celebrate can so subtly grow faint.
For Christians, this time of year carries a special significance. More than a time to enjoy family and food, we pause to reflect on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In His birth was not just a beginning – It was a continuation of a love story that has developed since the beginning of time and continues even still today. It was yet another display of the willingness of a holy God to show incredible mercy to a fallen, broken mankind. It was yet again opening His heart despite being walked away from, and it was choosing to love those so lost in their own ways, they did not understand their need for a Savior. All of this from a God who loves – yes, justly – but also so tenderly:
“So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” (Judges 10:16, NKJV)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NKJV)
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NKJV)
How amazing is that? Christmas isn’t about the gifts under the tree, the special family recipes, or those classic songs you either love or hate. It’s not about the twinkling lights or the smell of the Christmas tree. But the power of what this time signifies is reflected in the memories created around all of those treasures of the season. It is shown in the delighted squeals from kids waking their parents up oh-so-early on Christmas morning. It is shown in the glimmer of joy in a mother’s eye as she soaks in having all of her children under the same roof again. It is shown in a father’s smile as he shares the same stories he tells every year, but the family enjoys again just the same.
In the same way, that power is seen in broken families finding hope again. It is seen in the heartbroken woman finding healing and the addiction-stricken man finding freedom. It is seen in the young girl believing she is truly loved and in the young man discovering he has purpose. It is seen in the wholeness, comfort, and relief poured out onto pain-filled and desperate situations. It is the hope that no matter how hard things have been, they will get better. The God we serve today is the same one Who said long ago:
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)
This time of year, we pause to reflect. We don’t deserve any of this. Many would hardly suffer a few hours for those they “love,” but for God to pursue broken people for a lifetime? To patiently endure being walked away from, disobeyed, and blamed for centuries? To sacrifice for those same people? That love can only come from Him. This time of year, we humbly and gratefully reflect on the sacrifice that was made as an outpouring of God’s love that so completely enwraps, saves, heals, and restores us.
“Busy” has become the easiest way to keep modern American Christians distracted, but it doesn’t have to take hold of your home too. Take a minute to breathe and then a few more to really be present with the people in your life. Pause to remember why we celebrate Christmas, and all of the other holiday stresses will take care of themselves.
*And to those who have suffered this year – Whether by hardship, or illness, or loss – I pray you are comforted this holiday season as you look ahead to a brighter 2019.