All the Christmas paraphernalia is on sale now. Fifty percent off at least and if you have the gumption to wait, it’ll probably be slashed to 75 later this week. The commercial holiday season that’s gradually inched its way to starting before the Halloween candy is eaten somehow works itself to a feverish climax — and then it’s over, leaving behind scraps of red and green ribbon, along with glitter and pine needles that cling stubbornly to the fibers in our carpet.
As a child, I felt the disappointment so soon. Something I’d waited for, longed for, gotten so excited about — over in the blur of a few short hours. Back then it was done when the last present was opened.
It’s what society has taught us, isn’t it? To measure our days, our wallets and our worth by the commercial clock. We haven’t paid off Christmas yet, and already the Target shelves are stocked with Valentine candy. On to the next event. Forget the in-between.
Are we really a people so discontent with ourselves, with our lives and the way we live them that we can’t be still in ordinary time? We always seem to be waiting for the next big thing to give us purpose.
It’s the time for resolutions. The new year is almost here. The season of fresh starts. We get motivated, driven even, by the turning page of the calendar when the truth is that God’s mercies are new every morning. Every single moment with Him is a breath of fresh air, a chance for a do-over, a new beginning. He is in the process of always making everything new.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
I did it again this year, you know.
With the best of intentions, I swore I would stay focused, make the season meaningful — this would be the perfect, peaceful Christmas. But I got swept up in all of it as always. It’s so hard not to get carried away with the festivities, the presents, the food — always the food! And then it’s all over and I wake up with a Christmas-induced hangover wondering what just happened.
Can anyone else relate?
O Holy Night
I’m reminded on this dreary December day, fifteen years to the day of my first child’s birth, that Jesus comes — whether we are ready or not. When a baby is ready to be born, there is no stopping the delivery. It’s only a matter of time.
My precious Kyle was not due until mid-January. He was going to be a Y2K baby. Three days after Christmas I was heavily pregnant, sick with a cold and too exhausted to even think about putting away the tree and all its baubles. There were no bags packed, no plans made. I had been teaching school up until the winter break began, planning to do the last-minute preparations while school was out.
But on that December day in 1999, it became clear that a baby was coming. He was coming in spite of the mess of wrapping paper and boxes still strewn about my living room. Despite the unpacked bags and unfinished nursery. And even in spite of the fact that he would be born not just in the wrong year, but in the wrong millennium. He came anyway. And then nothing else mattered.
Jesus’ infant cries in a stable were probably not what Mary and Joseph had planned either. Yet he came. Whether the world was ready or not, he came just as He intended.
And even when we race through Christmas, making it about the tree and the gatherings and the music and the beauty — and yes, all of it is so beautiful and so filled with wonder — in the quiet of a little town, the Savior is born and everything changes.
Nothing else matters.
- He is here, with us, whether you notice Him or not.
- He is here, with us, whether you believe it or not.
- He is here, with us, and it doesn’t matter one whit whether you are ready or not.
He is here.
The words of the much-loved Christmas song — “till He appeared and the soul felt its worth,” — they haunt me.
For far too long, even as a believer in Christ and His good news, I looked for my worth in what the world had to show me. I scurried about through the seasons, the months and years, looking everywhere, to anyone for an ounce of affirmation. How I needed to know that I had a purpose, a reason for being alive, that I was important to somebody somewhere. Even at age 40, when I realized that I was running out of time and I needed to do something significant before I was too old, I looked to other people — I wanted to achieve, to matter. I wanted to look good on paper.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
Recognizing the savior turns everything else dim.
A true encounter with the living God, dwelling among us — a realization of what it means that God would become so small just to hang out with us, with me — well that makes the other stuff just fluff.
Are you struggling in the commercialization of it all to know your worth? When all the presents have been exchanged and you end up disappointed because the one day wasn’t what it advertised itself to be, do you wonder what any of it has to do with you? Do you worry that maybe no one will ever know your significance, least of all you?
He is here. He appeared so that you, dear soul, could feel your worth. Your worth is wrapped up in His birth. A God who would leave it all behind to come for you, to rescue you from a meaningless existence, from the futility of a life without purpose — that very God who scattered stars and molded planets and breathed life into the nostrils of mankind — humbled Himself for you.
He is here.
He has appeared. These are Emmanuel days.
Dear soul, my prayer for you is simply that you will have eyes to see. To know Him, and to believe — that your soul might feel its worth tonight.
May God bless you richly in the days ahead and may you be increasingly aware of His presence — God WITH us.
Lea Michele (of Glee fame) singing “O Holy Night”
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