The hope and joy of Christmas

To say these last few weeks have been crazy would be an understatement.  We’ve dealt with a tummy virus in three of the four people in our family, colds, two run-ins with croup resulting in ER visits, a UTI, a sinus infection, an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and a four-day stint out of town for medical treatments.  I’m sure there’s something I’m missing.  So, yeah.  Crazy is a good description.

However, right now I’m sitting peacefully in my living room while the Christmas tree lights are twinkling in the corner and Christmas socks are warming my feet.  Both of my children are napping. And I have to say I am ready for Christmas this year perhaps more than ever.  No, I don’t mean ready in the physical or secular sense.  In fact, beside me on the couch is my notebook with a list of activities I still want to get done in these next couple of weeks like making cookies, wrapping gifts and going to some light displays.  But I am ready in my soul and in my spirit.  I am ready for the hope and joy of Christmas.

We started with a Advent family devotion on Nov. 30.  I’ve missed it for a few days while I was away for some medical stuff, but the kids carried on with my parents.  I cannot wait to get back to it with them today.  The messages are short and sweet.  Most importantly they keep us focused on the true meaning of Christmas.  This has long been my favorite holiday.  I know that the manger doesn’t mean so much without the cross.  However, the two go hand-in-hand.  You can’t have one without the other.

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Christmas can be such a great time of hope and renewal in a way that has nothing to do with presents, homemade goodies or twinkling lights.  What has always awed me about Christmas is that it was the beginning of the sacrifice God made in sending His Son — His One and Only Son — to earth to suffer for us.  That’s always gotten to me, but since becoming a mother, I tear up when I stop to really think about it.

I love my children more than the air that I breathe.  I waited for their births.  I had one Christmas where I was in the midst of caring for a new baby when my daughter was only 3 months old.  I had another Christmas when I was 8 months pregnant and so very miserable and in pain.  Both Christmases gave me new perspective.  They gave me insight into what it must have been like in some small ways for Mary.  And they gave me great insights into love — pure love.  I cannot imagine sacrificing my children for people who love me.  I really cannot imagine sacrificing my children for people who ignore me.  And I most certainly cannot imagine sacrificing my children for people who hate me and curse my name.  Yet, that is exactly what God did.  He wrapped all of His love up into one bouncing baby boy.  And He offered Jesus to the world to live among us, struggle with us and eventually die for us.  Die for us!

Would I have chosen to have children had I known they would have to die a horrible, tortured death for people who jeered at them?  No, I don’t think I would have.  I don’t have that kind of love.  I look at their precious faces and know that I would go through anything and everything to spare them any pain and definitely to spare them death.  But, God loved me, them and you so much that He gave His Son as a sacrifice for us all.  That is love.  And that is what Christmas is about.  It is hope.  Because when you realize that Someone loves you so much that He’s willing to sacrifice everything for you, it changes everything.  Love changes everything.

Does that mean all Christmases are awesome?  Unfortunately, no.  Like anyone who’s been around for a while, I’ve had some difficult Christmases.  There was the Christmas spent in CCU praying for my mother-in-law to pull through after a heart attack (I’m happy to say she did and 13 years later is still going strong!).  There was the Christmas that came just two weeks after losing my grandma.  Sometimes life is hard and circumstances are hard. But the message of hope remains steady and true every single year.  It has remained unchanged for century after century.  It is there even when we don’t feel it.  It is there even when we ignore it.  And, praise God, it is there when we most need it and long for it.

I don’t know where you find yourself this holiday season.  Maybe it’s a happy one for you; maybe it’s a hard one.  Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle.  Maybe you join me in longing for a reminder of hope and a rebirth of love.  No matter where you find yourself over these next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, I pray that you also take the time to seek and find God.  He is always there, ready and willing to give you His hope.

Come, Lord Jesus, and fill us with Your hope and joy.

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