I’ve heard it seldom, in whispered tones, only from those who trust enough to reveal the really hard stuff. “Christmas is a difficult time for me.” No one wants to admit it so those who live it feel all the more alone. I know because I’ve felt it too. For some, Christmas is a reminder of better days gone or people we miss. Others, feel the expectation to dress like the model in an Anthro catalogue or plate a turkey dinner like the picture on their sister-in-law’s blog and it becomes too much for an already-anxious soul. Then shame settles in because everyone else is happy and it’s the best time of the year and who wouldn’t smile like Buddy the Elf from November 1st until January because it’s CHRISTMAS.
Christmas has lots of layers and some people seem to enjoy every last one of them. I know people who can check off everything from their Christmas bucket list without becoming exhausted or over-stimulated and I admire them for it. But I’ve learned that for me, I must peel back most of those outer layers and enjoy just one or two of them so I can get straight to the core of Christmas. This year I searched and prayed to find that depth so I could hold tight to it and let the rest of the layers float away for someone else to grab. Blessedly, as I searched for a deeper joy, God scrawled a word across my heart that has become my season theme.
That baby, born in Bethlehem was the physical embodiment of hope to a lost and fallen world. His entire life was dedicated to bringing hope to those with broken hearts, minds and bodies. His perfect example gives us hope that we can someday become perfected like and through Him. And even His death solidified a hope that could never be taken away anyone willing to reach for it. So this year, my eyes have been opened to one of the most important feelings that Christmas should bring. Hope.
Hope, like Mary, that God sent us to earth to accomplish an incredible task, even if we feel unworthy or inadequate.
Hope, like Joseph, that God’s miracles are all around us, even if they don’t make sense to our finite minds.
Hope, like the Inn Keeper, that our meager offering will be enough for our Savior.
Hope, like the shepherds, who abandoned their fears to search for Jesus so they could bare witness of His existence and praise God for their opportunity to know Him.
Hope, like the wise men who followed light to find the Son of God and offer Him their gifts, trusting in their spiritual gifts and knowledge to direct them on their divine mission.
Every single person can find the joy of Christmas through hope. We can hope the next year will bring God’s blessings and watchful care. We can hope that our Savior will lift our burdens and enable us to become a little better than we are today. And we can hope that everything we experience this life will help us become someone who will feel home in the presence of God next life. Hope is real and waiting for our embrace so pain, fear and grief can dissipate in its’ presence. At this time of year, all of the hard things can be softened with hope. When I let the reminders of Christmas bring peace to my weary soul in the form of hope, God blessed me to smile sincerely and feel joy entirely.