I love Christmastime. I love the way everything, from trees to parking lots, gets dressed up in shimmery lights, bows, and evergreens. I love the kindness of strangers that seems to snowball this time of the year. I love the holiness of Christmas carols heard from church choirs, church pews, and grocery store loudspeakers.
Then why have I dreaded it in past years?
It’s an easy answer. It’s because, too often, I have misplaced my genuine hope for goodness. I long to create spaces that invite people to feel both at rest and joyful. I want to establish traditions that make memories of connection and meaning for my family. I want transcendence. I want the twinkle lights to awaken hope and for that hope to be met.
So I try. I try hard. But how many cookies must I bake for my home to smell as sweet as a Bavarian bakery?
How many rooms must I decorate with sprigs of evergreen and boughs of holly before a chorus of fa la la la la’s lightens every heart?
How do I think of, select, and wrap the perfect gift that conveys, “I see you. You matter. I’ve been paying attention”?
How many twinkle lights will it take to fill my home with the Light I am after?
And how do I ward off the feeling that I am failing miserably to do any of these?
You would think that after all these years I would have given up, but I haven’t. My longing to convey love has not diminished, though the number of cookies I bake has. The number of rooms I decorate has lessened, but my desire to recapture something of the holiness of Christmas has only increased.
Are you like me?
I have expectations that I place on myself and that the media exacerbates, and so I try to make the magic happen. I still seek the illusion of the perfect Christmas.
I bet you are like me.
Yet, we bake the cookies and they burn. We wrap the presents but can’t get the bow right and the paper tears. Our friends open the boxes and the light in their eyes we were hoping for fails to appear. The dress we wanted to wear to the party still doesn’t fit. Our children, who didn’t get enough sleep the day before, are grumpy come Christmas morning.
We are disappointed.
But dear ones, we are not in despair, and we never ever have to be, no matter what our holiday season holds or lacks.
We must ask ourselves, Where have I placed my hope?
Yes to making delicious cookies. Yes to giving lovely and thoughtful presents. Yes to feeling good in the clothes we wear.
But fulfilling these desires is not our hope. Failing in any way to live in the manner we long for, or to obtain the desired results we planned on, is not a reason for shame or despair.
Here’s an idea. Let’s take the pressure off. Pressure kills.
It kills relationships. It kills joy. It kills our ability to enjoy the partial perfection we are given to relish. And it kills our Christmas celebrations. Pressure even numbs our awareness of the glory of Emmanuel — Christ with us — in the moment. It takes us out when we want to be present. To offer our presence to those around us is the greatest gift we can give them. The loved ones in our lives don’t want marvelous gifts from a harried giver. They want us. They want our love given with a free hand that becomes an alluring fragrance of our Jesus.
Holidays — Holy Days — are not given to us to rise to the mandate of perfection but to rest and remember to enjoy the gifts our holy God has given us, and to receive them with humble awe and gratefulness. We can’t wrap enough presents to respond in this way; we can only ask for the grace to wrap our hearts around this truth. God wants our hearts open and ready. He invites us to live from a place of trust and rest, not from a place of pressure and demand.
So let’s just get it out in the open. No one’s Christmas is going to be perfect. But perfection is coming. On that day, our longings and desires will be met with fullness that is currently incomprehensible.
Our Christmas on this side may not be perfect, but it can be holy. It can be glorious. It can be good. I’m invited to lay down the illusion that I can pull this thing off. I’m invited to rest in the love of God and remember that He alone is perfect and loves perfectly. This Babe in a manger, this Lamb of God, this Lion of Judah, this God-of-Angel-Armies, this Savior of the world has come. He is coming. He will come again in His glory.
When He comes on a white steed with fire in His eyes, a sword in His hand, and every enemy trampled under His feet, our every dream will come true for the richest among us to the poorest. It will come true for the healthiest and the most infirm. It will come true for the most seemingly blessed and the most horrifically oppressed. Jesus is coming again. Love has already won. On that final and first day of ultimate triumph, no illusion will shadow our hearts. So we wait eagerly as we hope earnestly.
Remember and rest. The way, the truth, and the life reign supreme. Let your heart rejoice.
O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of Angels!
Merry Christmas indeed.
Written for Devotionals Daily by Stasi Eldredge, author of Defiant Joy.
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Are you trying hard this Christmas to make it as perfect, as memorable, and as joyful as possible? Maybe we’re trying to hard… Let’s not be disappointed this year even when Christmas isn’t perfect. It is still holy. And beautiful. And can be filled rejoicing! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily