*This post was originally written in December of 2018, but its story is still as real today. I hope it blesses you.
“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
I bought a Christmas tree in October and in mid-December returned it to the store. A perfect picture of my feelings for this holiday.
I have struggled with Christmas for years. One year, I decorated the tree and two days later took it down and put it in the box, choking with depression. How has a holiday that’s supposed to be merry become a chore instead?
I’m buying gifts that, being honest, I can’t afford. I have unpaid bills hanging over my head like a scythe. Then there are the parties and get-togethers, which take me days to prepare for mentally. It’s all too much. I like my quiet, love being alone for three-quarters of the day. Though I enjoy giving gifts, I don’t like being given a deadline to buy them. I’d rather see something and think of someone and buy it “just because.”
All of this commercialism has me a bit like Charlie Brown, “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?” Linus’s answer is my favorite Christmas scene of all time, and fortunately, I can watch it on YouTube over and over. But greater than hearing it, I’ve learned, in overcoming my Christmas-foibles, that what the holiday means is far more than decorations or fancy foods.
"But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." (1 Peter 3:4)
Strip all of that away, and could you still have Christmas? If you didn’t put up a tree, hadn’t one thing to wrap, weren’t invited to a single overblown festive event, how would you celebrate?
We are all unique. What you enjoy, I probably don’t. The things you like to do during December will differ from mine (I’m positive of that). What Christmas songs I like to sing, what movies I want to watch, are my own choices. Though I returned the tree, I still did small decorations to signify the season, nothing too frou-frou because really having things look relatively normal is better for me. But in my heart the reason for Christmas lives 365 days a year.
I don’t need flashing lights to remember Him. I can walk outside and see one million stars. Or the sunlight through flower petals. Or hear a bird singing, gloriously, as God created it to do. I raise my hands in worship in December as I did in November or October or June or March. God is as good today as He was yesterday. And I roll the cares of this month over on Him in favor of the peace He came to bring.
Christmas lives in me in that moment. In the quiet of reflection, stripped of the shiny baubles and gaudy bows, when it’s allowed to simply be, I find serenity in my heart. Faith. Hope. Goodness. Mercy. The promises of God which will carry me through the stresses of this outrageous holiday and into the new year.
In that is the true meaning of Christmas. In the strength to pick myself up and “do today” and tomorrow and next week. And look back at it all a month from now with fondness. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
Suzanne D. Williams, Author