From my childhood to my late twenties, there is scarcely anything more magical to look forward to than Christmas. Nostalgia is a precious thing. Sights, smells, and sounds all take us back to a place where we were warm, happy, safe.
For me the embodiment of that contented state goes back to the holidays.
I’ll never forget when the magic of Christmas was especially strong for me growing up in early years. Memories of wandering through fresh cut Christmas trees with my parents and siblings—or cutting out holiday shaped cookies that were baked and decorated—are some of my fondest. Not to mention the anticipation of opening gifts!
At around six years old, I have this core memory of a cake which was made to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Candles were placed and lit. We sang happy birthday to Him. So simple, yet the glow of the moment and the message my parents tried to instill in us has stayed with me to this day:
Jesus’ coming is worth being made much of. Worth being acknowledged and prioritized in the midst of erranding, gift wrapping, shopping, baking. Because it’s all about Him to begin with.
During December, the real reason why we celebrate as believers is held in high esteem—illuminated—receiving proper attention for the most part. At other times of the year, however, we may more readily forget the “good news of great joy”—that Immanuel is indeed right here with us (see Luke 2:8-12; Matthew 1:23).
More of Jesus is the Answer
The nostalgia of the season mentioned earlier ushers us into the holy ground of Advent. Our hearts are lighter while at the same time hungering for something more.
Christmas is embodied with a certain climate for absorbing “comfort and joy”—as familiar God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen brightly promises—which is otherwise absent during the rest of the year (see 2 Corinthians 1:3). As Christians, we should take advantage of this unique opportunity to grow spiritually, letting Jesus flood our souls in every bit of the extra space we make for Him.
But sometimes we are experiencing the opposite of holiday cheer—sadness, loneliness, an overall lack of luster when it comes to celebrating.
Here’s the truth: It is okay if it feels different than other years. We shouldn’t stress. It’s possible to still rejoice despite rough spots in our Christmas journey: “I am filled [to the brim] with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in spite of all our trouble,” (2 Corinthians 7:4, AMP).
Whatever place you find yourself residing this Christmas—happiness or sadness—the answer is the same: more of Jesus. He is the cure for our somber ache in the absence of loved ones. For the struggle with sin. For every need we have.
Some holidays are heavy. It is hard to “get into the Christmas spirit.” He knows our sorrows. Even so, He has appointed the circumstances of our life—and will make even the hardest times beautiful (see Psalm 139:16; Ecclesiastes 3:1a;11a).
Known to the Core
There are many, many gifts that come with this holiday. Memories are made with friends and loved ones, giving is practiced, parties are planned. Curling up, fire in the fireplace, with popcorn, hot cocoa—and Elf bringing laughter to the heart. Making homemade candy in your grandparents’ kitchen. Gathering around the table to eat a delicious meal with family. Eating stocking candy the day after. A heart brimming with gratitude for…just…everything.
Yet beforehand, we must get back to the root of why Christmas is so unique and special to appreciate the season deeply. Tapping into the Source of joy will usher in a flood of genuine joy in exchange for any worries that may arise (see Nehemiah 8:10; John 15:11, Psalm 43:4). The other aspects will be like the icing on the cake my parents made a point of bringing into our Christmas celebration twenty years ago.
The heavenly solution to our greatest need is Jesus—not just in far off heaven—but as near as our heartbeat–“God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Jesus knows us to the core. So, when we are anticipating aforementioned joy this Christmas along with all of its nostalgia let’s remember He is able to grace us with true, enduring, healing fulfillment in Himself alone. He is what our hearts need–none other. We can rest content in Him.
Let’s cultivate and honor the space we’re making available this season for hoping in a glorious, close Savior.