December 6, just outside Guatemala City…
It’s warm today. The trees are blooming and my allergies are kicking in. There are some very loud birds that insist on singing outside my window, not to mention the shouts from the paintball facility just over the cement wall behind me.
My surroundings are about as far from a “Christmas feeling” as you can get for a girl from the mid-Atlantic portion of the northern hemisphere.
No desire for winter foods.
Or hot chocolate.
No bulky coat or cozy fire.
Nope. We have warm breezes and sunshine with a few Christmas trees thrown in.
And a lot of the other trappings that build that can build Christmas feeling in me are missing as well.
No Hallmark Channel movies or Christmas specials playing incessantly.
No gifts piling up under the tree.
A few Christmas activities here or there but nowhere near the pace of my past.
Don’t get me wrong – a lot of those things happen here. But for various reasons they aren’t part of my current reality.
So the ingredients that usually combine to fill me with “Christmas” emotions are missing.
It probably sounds like I am feeling sorry for myself.
But I am not.
I am delighted that, even without those things, I have found the secret to having that “Christmas feeling” in my heart consistently.
Because there have been plenty of years where that emotion, that elusive Christmas joy, was missing even with all the trappings.
Many years I have struggled with disappointments.
That all seem larger and more hopeless during “That most wonderful time of the year.”
So what have I found? What is my own personal “secret ingredient” for a very, very Merry Christmas, no matter what?
Focusing on Easter.
When I focus on the trappings of Christmas it is easy to get stressed.
Out of sorts.
It is easy to feel broke and sad and lonely.
It is easy to throw myself large pity parties about what is missing in my life.
But when I focus on “the why behind the what”, everything shifts.
When I remember that Jesus gave up heaven to become helpless so that I would not be hopeless, I smile.
When I reflect on the fact that the One who spoke the universe into existence became a speechless baby for my sake, I shake my head in wonder.
When I realize that He was born solely to take my punishment on Himself, to make a way for us to have a relationship, a way for me to live eternally, I am compelled to sing.
God in the flesh as a baby fills me with wonder.
But God in the flesh on the cross drops me to my knees in worship.
The full manger makes me smile.
But the empty tomb makes me shout.
Celebrating His birth is marvelous.
But celebrating my re-birth as a new creation, fully forgiven, fully redeemed, wit full access to the throne of race because of what He did for me – well, that is mind-altering.
The trappings of the holiday don’t always make me sing and smile and rejoice.
They bring momentary happiness.
But the reality of transformative, life-transforming grace is the reason I have unconditional joy.
The reason for the season.
The reason it doesn’t matter if a tree is up, if the gifts are bought, or the cookies made.
I love those things – but I am in love with my Savior.
He is the reason why it is a MERRY Christmas, no matter what.
So if you are struggling with your feelings this season, I have a suggestion.
Play some Easter music.
Read Luke 2.
But then jump over to John and read from chapter 13 on to the end of the book.
Sing – or at least play – “Christ the Lord is risen today! Hallelujah!”
And “Up from the grave He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes! He arose the victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with the saints to reign!”
Sing songs that celebrate His victory over sin, over death, over hell.
Sing about His amazing grace and His unfailing love!
And then, if you are still feeling down, fast-forward to Revelation 21 and 22.
Look at what is coming soon.
Revel in the fact that there will be no more tears, sin, sorrow, sickness or death.
That the Lamb will make all things new.
And that every trial you have had on earth will be just a smudge of ink on the title page of the great book that is eternal life.
Revel in the fact that God chose to redeem you.
The He delights in you as His child.
That you have the gift of eternal life.
That no matter how bad things get here, this is as close to hell as you will ever get.
That is, if you know Him personally.
If Jesus is not just the baby in the manger to you. If He is also your Savior and friend.
If you have accepted the fact that you are a sinner in need of saving and told Him so, receiving the gift of eternal life He offers.
Have you accepted that gift?
If not, please do.
It will transform your Christmas – and everything else, too.
I don’t know how COVID-19 has impacted your year or will impact your Christmas.
I don’t know what sorrows you are carrying, what pains you face this year.
I don’t know the details for most of you.
But I do know this: Jesus said in John 16 that we WILL have trouble. But then he promised that HE has overcome the world!
Focus on that.
And you will have a very, very Merry Christmas indeed!