Most of us have a vision in our minds of the perfect Christmas: family gathered around, a clean and sparkling house, a beautifully adorned Christmas tree with piles of lovingly chosen presents underneath, a feast for the eyes and the table, scents of roasting turkey or ham, pumpkin pies, apple cider, everyone marvelously getting along like the end of a made-for-TV movie.
But what if that’s not reality this year?
What if one member is in prison? Or the hospital? Or overseas or across the country? Or in heaven?
What if a lost job or a major medical expense has led to a depleted bank account and bare cupboards?
What if grief overshadows joy?
Is Christmas then ruined?
Let’s go back to that first Christmas.
Mary and Joseph away from home in a strange city. They did not have a beautifully decorated house: they did not even have a hotel room. The only scents of the season were those of nearby animals. Mary, as a young, first-time mother, did not have the blessing of a modern hospital and sanitary conditions, a skilled nursing staff and childbirth training. Giving birth was painful and messy. If Joseph was her lone attendant, he would have been out of his element helping a woman deliver a baby. Perhaps he was dismayed or frustrated that he could not provide better for her in her moment of need. And after the blessed relief of a healthy child safely born, there was little acknowledgment of this Child. The shepherds, Simeon and Anna, and, later on, the wise men rejoiced in who He was. But soon the young parents would face the danger of a king bent on killing the Child in their care. Mary’s reputation would suffer as many thought her Child was illegitimate. The ominous promise hung over her head that a sword would pierce through Mary’s own soul.
What did Mary and Joseph have then, that lonely, uncomfortable, smelly night? They had the Child of promise. A Child whom they were told to name Jesus, which means “Jehovah saves.” His very name is a promise. He would reconcile them to God by taking care of their greatest need: He would “save His people from their sins.” They had the realization that this Child was the long-awaited and longed-for Messiah, the King, the Son of the Highest. What cause for joy and wonder! They had no idea how it would all work out. But they had the promise, and because of the promise, they had hope.
It’s certainly not wrong to enjoy a decorated tree, presents, wonderful food, and family gathered. But we can celebrate Christmas even all of those elements are missing or less than ideal. We can celebrate in our own hearts and with those around us that same promise, that same hope. Like Mary, we can treasure these things and ponder them in our hearts. Like the shepherds, we can make “known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” and go back to daily life “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2: 17-20). If all we have is faith in Jesus’ fulfillment of the hope and promise of that first Christmas, we are blessed indeed.
(Revised from the archives)
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
Happy Now, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)
Oh, it’s so tempting to strive for pinterest perfection at this time of year.
I am (slowly) learning to let go of the impossible standards and to open my heart to the joy of this particular year, whatever it holds and whoever it includes. God’s good gifts may look different every year.
Merry Christmas! May God’s abundant blessings overflow in your heart this holiday season.
Great post, Barbarah! I remember a Christmas about 10 years ago that I sat at the bedside of our youngest son in the hospital. We spent 4 days there together. It was certainly not the Christmas I anticipated! Thanks for these great reminders!
Thank you for linking up at InstaEncouragements!
I’ve yet to have a perfect Christmas. 🙂 But when all is said and done, if things would have gone MY way, they would have been further away from perfect. Hope you and your family had a beautiful Christmas, Barbara. We so enjoyed having time with our family and grandgirls this year!
Once again we have suffered a bereavement just before Christmas and, whilst the sadness remains, the hope and joy embodied in the love and trust in God via the festive period overcomes it, plus we have all the happy memories of all the Christmases we has together before the loss. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging
Beautifully written. When we have Jesus, we have everything that matters.