The decorations are all down and lovingly tucked away in their respective boxes. Walking into my restored living room, the ghost of my beautiful, twinkling, ornamented tree lingers in the corner of my eye and I sigh longingly.
Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. Brightly coloured decorations and lights bring pleasure to the creative part of my soul, and excitement energizes me on the hunt for the perfect gifts to make the faces of my loved ones light up. The fresh scent of our evergreen tree and extra boughs laying between the candles of our advent wreath brings a smile to my face, and a feeling of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” is in the air, a feeling of joy. It is easier to extend kindness, forgiveness and love toward people you meet, even strangers.
But why? Getting presents or giving them can not be the reason because we do this on other occasions. It can not be about getting together with family either, because we also make efforts to do that throughout the year.
What is it about Christmas that brings that unique feeling of anticipation and hope?
At least it used to feel that way, but these days, it seems like people have lost the joy of Christmas. I hear people grumble more and everyone is in too much of a hurry that they forget to enjoy the magical feeling of the season.
Every Christmas eve, my husband and I watch the old black and white Alistair Simms movie, A Christmas Carol. I think the black and white add so much to the theme of being lost in darkness. The greys and shadows depict the wretchedness of Ebenezer Scrooge’s existence; the miserable state of his soul. Then when he repents and finds redemption, there is a preponderance of light everywhere.
The truth is, Christmas is not really about gifts, good food or friends and family, as enjoyable as they are. Christmas is about the gift of hope for redemption.
Emmanuel has come! And with Him comes the greatest hope of humanity, the hope of a renewed relationship with our heavenly Father, our King, our Creator, our God. It is the offer of a chance to enter back into the garden, our true home, wherein the deepest part of our being we innately know we belong and desire to return. Here is where we will find true peace and goodwill, in the presence of our Abba.
Without this hope, this gift, we are like Scrooge lost in darkness and shades of misery and bitterness. We live constantly striving for purpose, trapped in the prison of our self-absorbed thoughts and pain.
So why, you may be wondering, am I talking about Christmas now, in January?
There is a song I always enjoyed listening to growing up called, That Christmas Feeling, by Perry Como. One of the lines is “What a blessed place the world would be if we had that Christmas feeling all year.”.
This is so true. As the ghost of Christmas present says, in A Christmas Carol, “We Spirits of Christmas do not only live just one day of our year, we live the whole 365! So is it true of the child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men’s hearts only one day of the year, but all the days of the year.”
But how do we keep that feeling alive in our hearts all year round? How do I live with “good tidings of comfort and joy”, and “let nothing you dismay”, as the song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen goes, inside me for three hundred and sixty-five days?
I do not make New Year’s resolutions anymore. Long ago, I learned I do not keep them! It is a good time of year, though, I believe, to reflect on what the Lord has taught me in the previous year and what He would like me to strive for this year. This past Christmas, I did not feel much joy which bothered me. As I listened to Christmas songs, new and old, and watched A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, as usual, the familiar joy and thrill seemed to be missing but the message was sinking into me in a new thoughtful way.
I began to see more clearly that I am to live in joyful expectation of what the Lord will do in my life today. I should be looking at finding ways to bless others and not to make myself more comfortable.
Let me not resolve for a new year but simply each new day to live for the One who loved me enough to be tortured and die for me.
I want to start each new day with a prayer of commitment and end each day in gratitude and reflection. There will be days of gratitude for His great blessings, days of joy when I see how I have pleased Him by doing His will, and then there will be days when He opens my eyes to deep sin in my heart against Him. These are the days of great personal sorrow and pain, and I hate it!
However, these crushing days are the ones I most would not choose to change as much as it pains me, and I hate to see and acknowledge it. The reason is that I am also so humbly grateful that my Mighty God does not turn His back on me, but gently and lovingly shows me what is in my heart and how it needs to change. He doesn’t leave me to flounder like a fish on a sandy beach gasping for breath and struggling to get back to the life-giving water I need. Gently my Lord picks me up, comforts me and pours that water over me. He promises to make me holy in His image and He is faithful to complete it. Amen and hallelujah!
So, this new year, which is just one new day after another, let us resolve to live more like Christ. Let us look for ways to bring joy and love into the lives of those we meet and interact with today! I pray we have eyes to see the needs of others more clearly than our own and that we would bring, tidings of comfort and great joy, everywhere we go. That is the way to have that Christmas feeling all year and make our world a more blessed place.