In the best of times, Christmas can be hard. For me, when I was teaching, there were Christmas programs to rehearse and then to attend while “monitoring” a host of lovely junior highers. All in a day’s work. But so was practicing and coaching my team in a Christmas basketball tournament, buying and parceling out Christmas goodies to give to my homeroom, decorating the room and hanging Christmas bulletin boards.
Then there were Christmas church programs, gifts to buy and wrap for my family, decorations in my home, a church party, a school faculty party.
And that’s when times were the best. In truth, they weren’t always that good. There were occasional colds, progress reports that happened to fall the week before vacation, problems with travel plans, stormy weather.
In short, Christmas time is far from restful. Add in the fact that Christians often receive admonitions to “keep Christ in Christmas.” All the busy-ness and we are supposed to incorporate worship. In fact we are supposed to make all the other things serve worship.
It can be hard.
Worse yet is losing someone you care about, or relational problems, long distance moves, marriage break-ups.
In all this, I’m convinced that God doesn’t want the remembrance of His Son’s birth to be a source of despair or doubt or fatigue or sadness. He is a God who prescribed lavish celebrations for His chosen people as part of their worship of Him. He is a God who promises feasting and parties for those who come to Him. He is a God whose Holy Spirit produces, among other things, the fruit of joy and peace.
Add to this the fact that He gives the gift of grace and forgiveness, so we do not have to earn right standing with Him (as if we could anyway). Rather, what He wants is our joyful, grateful response—the pure exhilaration at finding ourselves unshackled from sin and the overflowing appreciation poured upon the One who broke our bonds.
Our exhilaration and appreciation can come out in all the things we do at Christmas time. We can decorate and do Christmas programs, shop and wrap, party and perform, all in light of God’s great gift. We love because He first loved us. We serve because He served us. We sacrifice because He first laid down His life for us.
If we are mindful of what God has done for us, if we do not look at Jesus as a perpetual baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, if we have responded and are responding to His greatest gift, then our Christmas may be hard, but it will be the kind of hard that has purpose. Like training for the Olympics, only better.
And in the end, we’ll be preoccupied with looking to God and will forget to check to see how hard things are for us today.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the fnstrength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:21-31)