This year the idea of Christmas has been rough.
With Hurricane Irma, all of us in Florida feel like we lost a month. I’m sure so many others across the country have felt the same with fires, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes robbing us of daily life.
So Christmas crept up with a suddenness that stalled me.
In addition, some personal challenges made it difficult to embrace the season. I cried at the thought of what this year may be like for my family and for so many in my area still struggling to recover from tragedy. But then my heart flipped.
It started with O Holy Night.
A line in that song (one of my personal favorites), says
“…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”
I can relate to being weary. Weary of recovering from trauma. Weary of the emotional roller coaster of relational issues. Physically weary of biking each day to a new job. And weary of the spiritual attacks of an enemy that wants to destroy my peace, joy and marriage.
But that is why Jesus came.
And as I sang with our congregation, allowing tears to fall, my heart grew a little hope–a small thrill if you will–that held promise. Just a hint. Because Jesus is my hope. He’s given me such peace and faithfully provided for me during this season of weariness.
This past week I still couldn’t bring myself to play Christmas carols.
But after another day of singing them at church both in our worship service and at another get together, I found my heart opening up to the possibilities. Allowing myself to be swept into the presence of God and gratitude for the birth of our Lord and Savior, I found release in the tears and joy in the celebration.
God calls us to live today. Nothing more. Nothing less.
When the Israelites were in exile for hundreds of years before Jesus came, God told them to live well there. Marry, give in marriage, eat, drink. Live. Don’t waste away because you are in a place that is less than what you’d like it to be.
So I decided to focus on what Christmas is, rather than what it might not be this year.
- Christmas is celebrating Jesus coming to a lost, weary world to offer us a way to God.
- Christmas is a time for love, joy, peace and hope.
- Christmas is about sharing in relationships: friends, strangers and yes, family.
- Christmas is about giving. Whatever resources we have. Maybe we don’t have money, but we may have time, or a listening ear, or a hug or gift wrapping skills. We can offer a ride or be a personal shopper. Let’s be creative.
- Christmas is about traditions. Keeping some old ones, making some new ones. Memory making lasts forever. Let’s make some good ones.
So I sang my heart out in gratitude to God. I gave what I could to those who needed something. I decorated. Lit advent candles. Put on my favorite Christmas music. And the very things I didn’t think I could bring myself to do have created an atmosphere of peace and joy.
I’m not sure all of what Christmas will look like this year. But at this moment, it looks pretty good.
How have you found a way to embrace Christmas and Christ this season?
If you need a thrill of hope, check out my church’s Thrill of Hope series at NextLevelChurch.com and if you’re in the Southwest Florida area we invite you to celebrate with us on December 23 and 24th during one of our many services at three locations.