For as long as I can remember, Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. There are several reasons why this season has always been so special, and I suppose if I am honest, those reasons have evolved throughout my lifetime. I remember when it was all about the toys and the anticipation of what Santa would leave under the tree. My Daddy always loved this part too. Like me, he enjoyed the anticipation of not only what gift you might get to open, but how others would enjoy the gift you bought or made for them. He always made sure that on Christmas morning, the entire floor under the tree was full of gifts that had to be opened—one gift at a time, one person at a time. (We all hated that part of having to be so patient—but as far as I know, we all continue that same practice today in our own homes just to emphasize the ‘anticipation factor’). A few gifts would be wrapped in Christmas paper, others in newspaper and even some in brown grocery sacks, but it was always a sight to see.
We were not a wealthy family, but there were six of us children, plus Mama and Daddy, and everybody either bought or made a gift to give to one another, so it made for quite a pile for six young-uns to wake up to. Mama and Daddy always made sure that we each got at least one toy that we wanted and we also got the clothes that we needed for the year (you know the shoes that were so large you had to put tissue in the toes and the pants that were so big they wadded up at the waist and rolled up three times in the legs to give you growing room!). There was also fresh apples, oranges, and loose candy in our stockings and we ‘always’ got one of those giant candy canes that you could lick on for a week before it was gone! Yep, the anticipation of seeing the tree on Christmas morning and the giving and receiving of gifts was something to be anticipated and we were never disappointed in that way.
There are so many other things that make Christmas my favorite time of the year to include the weather, the midst of calving season, the food, the joyful songs, the lights and decorations, special gatherings of friends and family at Christmas parties, caroling, Church gatherings, the expressions on the faces of children, and just the general spirit of joy and generosity that most people experience and express to one another in ways unlike any other time of the year. Christmas has always been special to me because it is a time where the gift of giving is most expressed and realized—not only the giving of things, but the giving of time, labor, service and love. There is just something about Christmas that brings forth the joy of giving.
I also realize that for some people, Christmas can be a depressing, sad and/or lonely time of the year, especially if they are grieving the loss of a loved one or the brokenness of special relationships. Others may be facing financial difficulties, may be separated from their loved ones, or may just find that they are all alone in this world and do not have anyone to really love them or be loved by them. I am sure that others are just burdened from the guilt of their past that has caused them and others so much pain. I have always heard that the suicide rate is always the highest during the Christmas season. I know these feelings of sadness and hopelessness are indeed real and no one is immune to them. If you live long enough, you will go through some of these times, even during Christmas—but that is not the end of the story.
The Good News is that it is in THE gift of Christmas, in the person of Jesus, that we find THE answer to our brokenness and to all other problems that life throws at us. In Him we find the hope, peace, love, joy, healing, strength, the forgiveness of our sin and the promise of eternal salvation that not only makes Christmas special, but that makes life worth living at Christmas and every other day of the year. In Jesus we find THE One who will never leave us or forsake us—who will always be our comforter, companion, guide, strength and mediator. In Him we find the One who has forgiven us and makes it possible for us to forgive ourselves and others. Without Him, all the other things that make Christmas special will eventually be overshadowed and diminished by the guilt of our past and the trials of life—but in Him we can have the real peace and joy of Christmas even though everything else may be collapsing all around us,
I have found that it is now Jesus who makes Christmas the most special time of the year for me and for all who have placed their trust in Him (for this life and for all eternity) and who have received His gifts of love, peace, acceptance, and forgiveness. Without Him, nothing else that makes Christmas special would last or matter.
This Christmas, let us not get so busy or distracted that we miss the very purpose of the event that we are celebrating—the Gift of the birth of Jesus, God in the flesh, who came to show us God the Father and Creator of the universe, and who gave Himself to make us free and to give us eternal life.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11). Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble. But fear not, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
My prayer for you this Christmas season is that you personally receive THE Gift of Christmas—Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world, given just for you!