I’ll never forget the Christmas of 2009. It was the toughest year of my life. It was Christmas time and I didn’t feel like celebrating. It was the season of gifting, so I followed through with the obligatory task of shopping. I have never been the kind of mom who buys her kids toys all of the time, so Christmas and birthdays are when our kids get the things they have been asking for. Like any good mother, I bought a ton of toys and joyfully wrapped them. As I shopped and wrapped, I anticipated the delightful experience of watching the kids open their presents. Christmas Eve arrived and we ate our traditional meal. The kids mulled around the Christmas Tree, peeking at the carefully wrapped presents under the tree. We busied the kids by asking them to make piles of gifts for each person. One by one, the kids stacked presents by chairs around the Christmas tree. Meanwhile, the adults attended to the dishes. Momentum built as things were put in their place.
As the adults sat down by their unopened gifts, the kids danced around floating on air. Anticipation was ever present. To burst the bubble of expectancy, we allowed the kids to tear open their presents. Both were still at the age where an adult needed to help them, one by one, we’d tear a little piece and they would go to town. As each present was opened, the one before it was moved to the side for the next prospect. As opening presents usually does, it goes by really fast leaving a mess of paper and ribbon strewn about. By the time they were done, they were surrounded by toys not knowing what to do or why they had just gotten all of these things. Their confusion left me wondering why I had just gone into debt to create a 10 minute experience resulting in confusion.
I am not sure if anyone else observed what I had that night. What I saw seemed manufactured. Maybe I was having a midlife crisis. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. It all just seemed so fake and meaningless. The reality is that there was an elephant in the room no one was talking about. We were all suffering inside. We were acting Christmas out as if we were in a movie, putting off the truth that real life was a big mess. Everyone else in the house had their own junk they were dealing with. No one could claim they were really happy, except the kids who were innocent to it all. A couple months later, we found ourselves seeking new life.
I was surprised to hear Christians also struggle with the season. With the ultimate meaning of the holiday in their very name, it seems that finding Jesus at Christmas can be difficult. It has taken me a long time to really understand Christmas and to garner the peace, joy, and love that is supposed to come with it. The truth of Christmas spirit is not in the hustle and bustle but in reverence and reflection. When I could see and experience Jesus in my life, meaning came flooding into to my heart.
About three years into my walk with Jesus I attended a dance program at our church. I was rarely excited to see Christmas programs. I was still stuck in my cynicism. But as the music began and the dancers made their way to the stage, a light turned on inside. I looked up at the screen where the words to the songs were displayed and I caught a glimpse of scripture. My heart melted and I began to cry. Actually, I began to weep. You might think that is weird, that’s okay. Crying and me has it’s own story but if I am crying, you know I am experiencing the presence of God. Christmas Carols, Christmas songs often contain scripture from the Bible. I had never taken the time to really listen to what the songs actually said. To me, they were just songs played over and over again in the mall during Christmas time. The interesting thing about this particular song is that I have never had an affinity for it, it was Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Yes, you read that right. The words jumped off the screen, they were AMAZING !
To give you some context, the first scripture that I ever sought out and read with any understanding was Psalm 91. I used to have a lot of fear in my life. At this particular time, my husband was out of town on business. In order to feel safe, I would sleep with the television on in my room. I would drift in and out of light sleep the whole night long. Any bump or creek would wake me up and I would lay in bed scared to get up and check it out. For the first time it seemed ridiculous that I was so scared. I picked up my phone and looked up scriptures about fear. I wasn’t baptized yet, just attending church and a weekly Bible study, but God showed up. Big. Psalm 91 still brings great joy and relief to my heart.
The words on the screen had a word I recognized from that night where I was so scared.
Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace
Hail the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Wings. That is all I had to see to have an “aha!” moment. God and I have a history with wings and feathers. Maybe that should be a blog someday. Anyway, God, birds, feathers and wings. They all go together for me. So what about Pslam 91? In verse 4 it says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
I lost it. My hard heart toward Christmas broke that night. I could finally see God was really in it. This holiday, Christmas, means something. Maybe my revelation seems a little strange to you, that’s okay. God reveals himself differently to everyone. My encouragement is this: if you have trouble with Christmas, I implore you to seek out your own revelation of what this season means. If you find yourself cynical, ask God to show you the reality. If you lack peace, seek peace. Whatever it is that disturbs you about Christmas, find a way to flip it around and relate it all back to Jesus. The real reason for the season.