Christmas is a season of senses. I can’t think of another holiday or time of year that addresses all the senses and ties them to memories of past celebrations. From the glimpses of lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree, to the smell and taste of baking cookies. I love the songs that speak of the joys of the holiday and remind me of the birth of the Savior.
Christmas is a time that is filled with memories. Some are vivid, feeling like they are near to us. Other memories are faded, as if experiencing them from a distance thru frosted glass, with the memories never fully materializing.
When the memories are connected to one of our five senses, they shape who we are and how we see the world. Memories can be incomplete or misleading. Regardless though, the memories are our own, different from the ones our siblings, parents and family members experienced.
When I was growing up, I would spend quiet evenings in the dark living room, looking at the lights on the tree. A simple nativity scene would be wound up, playing “Silent Night.” I would listen to Christmas music on a LP’s, each one dropping until the stack was too tall to play. It all seemed to prepare me for the magical feelings that were evoked at the Christmas Eve service, singing “Silent Night,” and holding a lit candle.
These sights and sounds are the memories that connect me to Christmases past. Yet not all of my memories are so picturesque. There were times when family dynamics created unwelcome tension. Or the Christmases when money was tight, and celebrating the way we hoped was not possible.
Still, I have a mother who did her best to provide joy-filled and wonderful memories at Christmas for my sister and me. Even in the times when gifts were few, the love she shared with us and others was always evident. We always shared homemade goodies with friends and neighbors, regardless of our circumstances. In fact, I remember very few of my presents growing up, save for a red wagon, a special doll, and a pair of ice skates. I have not forgotten the love we all shared.
I have spent my adult life continuing to bring joy and love to others, and hopefully creating loving memories for my family. I could have worried about money and family dynamics, but it would have let the joy of the season slip away. Even when my husband died, I continued to seek the joy of Christmas and holiday traditions.
It is because of my inner trust with God that this kind of joy is possible. This trust allows me to put forth a positive perspective to others. To put aside the worries and stresses of life, and lay them before the Lord. To focus on the non-material things of life.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew 6: 25-34 (CEB) speak about such worry:
“Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or
about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?
Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry
Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with
work, and they don’t spin cloth. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though
it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you,
you people of weak faith? Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or
‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’
Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things
will be given to you as well. Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow
will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
God has promised to provide for me. When I trust God with my worries, I can focus on building relationships for Christ instead of focusing only on myself and material things that lack meaning. I can use this season of Christmas to reach out to others. Scripture is clear that I must seek God first and allow God to carry my worries.
This approach allows me to continue to create memories of joy even in tough times. It prevents me from getting lost in my grief. From getting side-tracked by things that lack value.
What is it you long for this Christmas? What memories connect you with past Christmases, good or bad? We live in a world that is desperately seeking meaningful experiences and encounters. The trouble is, we often look in the all the wrong places.
We spend our time and money trying to find the best deal on the stuff we think we need, over-buying. We amass credit card debt we can’t handle. We fly off on exotic vacations we can’t afford. This is all in an effort to make sense of this Christ-centered holiday that has been hijacked by the secular world. Unfortunately, we are left feeling empty.
Keeping Christ at the center of this Christmas season is challenging. Yet it is the only way we can really make sense of it all. It will never happen, by the way, if we don’t pause in our busy schedule and allow Christ to flood in and out of our consciousness.
Move Christ into your life, and let Him wander into your memories. Try pausing each day and let Christ fill the emptiness inside you. Only by stopping can we face our problems and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Only in pausing can we allow Christ to come in and guide us.
How do you feel inside? Is there longing in your soul for something you can’t name? By stopping, it is then you can take time to anticipate Christ’s birth and what it all means. And guess what? It's not just about a cute baby being born in a barn. It's the story of a baby boy, Jesus, born in order to grow up and be put to death so our sinful lives can be redeemed.
It’s about a baby who grew up to teach about love and forgiveness; who wants us all to see those in need and show mercy to others. That’s how a follower of Christ is called to live at this Christmas time, and to live all year long.
I invite you to respond to Christ this Christmas by using your gifts to bring others closer to Christ. After all, we were created to embrace the love Christ offers and share it with whomever we meet.
We are shaped by Christmases past. What we do with our past, whether good or bad, is our choice. I hope you will choose to fill your life with Christ and the love of others.
LET US PRAY
Lord of Love, thank You for being near to us in our past, our present and into the future. Help us to lay our worries on You so that we can live in the now, sharing Your love and hope with others. Christmas can be a difficult time, especially when there has been loss and loneliness. Yet You never leave us. Show us the joys that always exist, even when days are difficult. We love You, Lord. Amen.
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