Ahh, the holidays. It’s that time of year where houses are decorated, trees are thrown up, and the malls become a sea of humanity I loath to navigate. It’s the time where that one neighbor of yours literally covers every square inch of their house with artificial lights, blow-up Santa’s and plastic reindeer (which, of course, is always your kids’ favorite house to see!). The utility bill goes up, your expenditures sky rocket and Christmas goodwill and cheer can get lost in the shuffle.
Christmas is also a time where a few other things sky rocket – the suicide rate, alcohol consumption and oftentimes your blood pressure! It’s when you get to be subjected to that one wacky relative you avoid the rest of the year or have to deal with the craziness of family dysfunction. Or that first holiday you will spend alone and all the emotions it entails. Ho! Ho. Ho …
In all the melee of what we call “the holidays,” I have learned how crucial it is for me to stop and reflect. At the end of the day, it’s not that perfect gift or family gathering or Norman Rockwell moment that will bring me permanent joy and peace, no matter how tempting that is to believe. The perfect instagram picture or Facebook post won’t do it either. Nope–the only thing that brings me perfect joy and “peace that passes understanding,” Philippians 4:7) is Jesus Christ. It does happen to be his birth I’m supposedly celebrating, an easy fact to forget.
Isaiah tells us, “The people walking in darkness (that’s us, folks!) have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,”(9:2-6). It’s not the light of the decked out house that shines brightest; it’s the light of God sent down to save you and me, to redeem us for something much, much greater.
Jesus was born, as Isaiah tells us in chapter 61, to be God’s light for us. “He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion (again, that’s us)—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness …”
This always fills me with hope because I remember how much God has transformed me and how far He has taken me, even through deeply challenging circumstances. It reminds me to give to others out of a sincere heart the most meaningful gifts of encouragement and love. It reminds me that God will continue to mold me to become a mighty oak, tall and strong and beautiful before Him.
So when I’m tempted to overspend, overeat, overstress and overreact, I stop. I take a quick moment to remember I wear God’s crown upon my head, all because a baby was born in a manger to a virgin 2000 years ago. Most of all, It reminds me to look at a message that can start to feel trite or repetitive and put the depth and meaning back into it. And I find I can relax, let it go, and truly rejoice.
For Further Thought: Take some time out to look at what you’re wearing. Is it a garment of praise, or a garment of stress? Are you filled with gladness or filled with too much food and debt? Make some time to remember what the whole point is behind this crazy season so you can stay centered with God in the midst of it and actually embrace the message.