I look forward to Christmas . . . and yet I don’t. I like listening to and singing along with the mostly cheery-somewhat melancholic music I hear on the radio and in stores, and I enjoy the tinsel, bright lights, and other festive decorations. I like decorating the tree and wrapping gifts. I love family gatherings and yummy meals and the sharing of gifts. And this year I especially look forward to the joy of watching my two little bright-eyed grandsons open their gifts.
But frankly, I have mixed feelings about much of the “to-do” about Christmas. I don’t like the expectations associated with gifts. So often I’ve given someone a gift and then learned that it was something the receiver already had, didn’t want, didn’t fit, or simply didn’t like (though usually that was kept hidden). And before that came the process of thinking about what to buy and then shopping, while avoiding the crowds, and hoping to get the perfect gift on a limited budget.
Speaking of budget, there were years when I did all my shopping in the month before Christmas and ended up using credit cards to buy the gifts or to pay necessary expenses in the months that followed. I’ve mostly solved this problem by buying fewer and less-expensive gifts on sale with cash and throughout the year, but sometimes that just gives me more time to agonize over whether or not I’ve purchased the right gift.
And though most family gatherings are cheery and fun, not all have been of the same caliber of togetherness and joy. (And this year will be sadder because both our dads/grandpas will not be here to celebrate with us.) In the past I’ve also gotten so caught up in preparing the food and making sure everyone was comfortable that I’ve missed out on conversations and moments the others shared. Now when everyone gathers at my house I’ve solved that dilemma by ordering pizza and having everyone bring salads or desserts.
And then there’s the letdown when all the hustle and bustle is abruptly over.
If that were all I had to look forward to in this holiday season, I’d be like all the rest of the world that has no real reason to celebrate. Thankfully, I do! I celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. In a seemingly insignificant birth to two insignificant people, Jesus quietly entered this world with only lowly shepherds to witness His coming (Luke 2:1-20). Yet that birth was heralded by angels and set in motion the chain of events that gives significance to my life here on this earth and in the life to come.
That’s why I can take special joy in setting up my manger scene, singing carols of praise in God’s sanctuary, and savoring the stories of His birth found in Scripture.
I’m eternally thankful that He came, and I pray that I keep Him at the center of my celebration—not just in this season but all throughout the year.