the special carols and songs,
the beautiful decorations,
the colors, the silver and gold,
the sights and sounds,
the houses all lit up, looking so warm and inviting,
the special food we make only at this time of year,
the Christmas tree and the very special ornaments we collect year after year,
the family fun times,
seeing special friends,
the partying and socializing,
the gift buying
(although I have to say, I'm not a particular fan of the shopping and the crowds!),
the gift receiving,
I love it all!
I love especially the very important reason why we celebrate this particular holiday - the birth of the baby in a manger in Bethlehem and what His life and ultimate death would mean to all of mankind!
While most people get upset that everything Christmas shows up in the stores right around Halloween time, I love it! It gives me the chance to enjoy the season that much longer!! If it were up to me, Christmas would be celebrated for at least 2 months. There is never enough time for me to savor every and all aspects of this season. I love the pre-season preparation; the anticipation of what's coming. I love celebrating Advent and hearing the Christmas story told and re-told. It never gets old!
As a child, my anticipation was all about what I was going to get under the Christmas tree! As an adult, the anticipation is about the promised Messiah and celebrating anew and afresh His birth in my heart.
I also understand, too, that this season can be a very hard one for people alone, for people who are experiencing all kinds of trials and unfortunate circumstances, for people who don't have the money and/or ability to celebrate in the way they would like, and for many more other reasons.
I experienced a Christmas like that several years ago. My husband died on October 2, 2004, so that Christmas of 2004 would be the first Christmas without him in my life after 34+ years. But the Lord was so gracious to me and did something very special in my heart. I would like to share with you an excerpt from my Christmas letter that year:
"I was not going to send either cards or a letter this year, but as I reflected on the upcoming holiday season, I realized this season is not about me and my loss, it's about Jesus and His miraculous birth and presence in our lives. For that fact alone, I need to celebrate this holiday season especially. The miracle of the virgin birth, the fact that God "dwelt among us" and wants to be a part of our every day lives is the story of Christmas and that definitely needs to be celebrated, not just once a year, but every day. This Christmas I celebrate His birth and His presence in my life, at a time when I need Him more than ever before."
Yes, Christmas is definitely about love and family and sharing special times with those we love, but we need to recognize that all that love and good will we feel originates from the heart of God. The love that gave "His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) For what is Christmas without Christ? There is no celebration without the one we celebrate! There is no birthday without a birth! How can you have a birthday party without the guest of honor - the one whose birth you celebrate??!!
May I be so bold as to say - Christmas is not about me, it's not about you; it's not about all the trappings we surround ourselves with during the season, however much we love and enjoy them; it's not about being alone and lonely;
it's not about our circumstances at all; and it's not about finding the perfect gift.
It's about acknowledging the perfect gift that was given to "whosoever" those many years ago in Bethlehem.And when we recognize and receive that gift, the "reason for the season" becomes powerfully clear!
He is the reason for the season!
He gives us peace in the midst of the chaos of our lives!
He gives comfort to the lonely and broken hearted!
He gives joy to the saddened heart!
He restores hope when all was thought lost!
He pours out His love to the heart that feels so unloved!
Especially when we are broken-hearted, when we are lonely, when we are terrified of what the future holds, when we have lost loved ones.
Especially when we have almost given up, when the abuse continues, when the month is longer than the money, when the whole family is turmoil, when the bickering won't ever stop.
Especially when there are no presents to put under the tree, or even a tree to put them under, when you are too exhausted from illness to hardly get out of bed, let alone do any shopping.
Especially then - we need to celebrate! Celebrate the birth of the only one who can give and/or restore our hope, peace, joy and love!