Last night at a Christmas party, a friend said to me, “I didn’t even start thinking about Christmas until yesterday. I just don’t want to think about it.” I get it. Christmas can be too much. It is overwhelming for some of us, and troubling for others. Annual visits are suddenly upon us again, resurrecting complicated relationships we’ve put in the back of our minds since last year. A loss or tragedy makes celebrating impossible despite the bright, Christmas cheer all around.
I can relate to both these experiences. And every Christmas, I find myself begging God to speak—peace, joy, comfort, something good—to my heart and those around me.
But here we are, with very few days left before December 25th. Knowing my complex feelings about Christmas and how many of my friends approach the season with dread and not joy, I am prompted to ask a large, albeit profoundly simple question: What are we celebrating?
As I’ve been reading, reflecting, and praying these last few weeks, I’ve felt encouraged to approach this season with a sense of wonder at the first Christmas. Step back with me to that time before Jesus came. God promised His people, the Israelites, salvation. Ultimate rescue. A king who would forever change their course. God spoke His promises to several prophets, who made His words known to His people. And so the people waited. And waited. For centuries they prayed and waited. Perhaps some of them waited for just another word from God about how and when this King would come.
Then in the night, God came to earth. He spoke His perfect love to humanity through a baby’s cry. And He spoke to all people – revealing the news of His coming to the guys outside the city walls tending sheep and three foreign astronomers drawn from the east by a star they had never seen. He told them the good news of His glory poured out in a baby lying in a lowly manger. What a story. Only God could speak so beautifully.
I propose that instead of dread and stress over all our obligations, instead of feeling melancholy or weary under the weight of the season, let’s approach Christmas with wonder. Wonder that God would come to earth in the dark night to speak to our waiting, longing hearts. With words of hope. With eternal life. With peace. And freedom! I do believe as we are moved by wonder, we will hear Him speaking even now – reminding us that His love is the greatest gift.