T-3 days until Santa comes shimmying down the chimney with all his goodies. Until we hear reindeer hooves on rooftops and jingle bells all the way. But what are we missing in all of this Christmas cheer?
For as long as I can remember, I have dearly loved Christmas. Growing up I had the privilege of big Christmas celebrations with lots of family, a big Christmas breakfast, and a house decorated to the nines. Some of my favorite memories involve the plastic Santa we would install on the roof and the smell of homemade biscuits and gravy greeting me as I awoke on Christmas morning. It was a sweet time--full of love, joy, and family, and I loved every minute of it.
Since then, Christmas has stayed dear to me. I can't wait for Christmas music to start playing, I love decorating the tree, and I watch White Christmas over and over. It's the most wonderful time of the year. But as we all know, it can also be the busiest time of the year. With year-end projects at work, holiday parties with friends and family, and (Lord have mercy) the Christmas shopping, the days and weeks of the season fly by for most of us.
I suppose this is a painful reality of early adulthood I'm just now facing, but this year was the first time I have watched the Christmas season come and go in a flash. Since we've been so busy, I've missed a lot of my favorite Christmas traditions, and that has caused me to realize something:
I've been missing the point of Christmas.
Without my decorations and traditions (we currently have a Christmas tree with 4 ornaments and mostly burned out lights), and with the hustle and bustle of a busy December, I've been left with a pretty plain Christmas season. In that plainness, without the Christmas "magic" I'm accustomed to, I've been struck with the realization that these things I love have been distracting me from the most amazing thing that has ever happened.
The things I love so much about the Christmas season are good things, but they all wildly miss what Christmas is about: God becoming man to save and redeem the world. I knew it in my mind, sang it in lots of Christmas plays, and had a light-up nativity scene set in my front yard, but it has never sunk so deeply as it has this year. Maybe it has something to do with being another year older, or imagining what Christmas will look like with a baby next year, but I've been overwhelmed this year by the story of Christmas. The beginning of God's incredible redemptive work on our behalf. God the Father sending his Son to be wrapped in human flesh, to live among us, teach us, and die for us--making a way for us to know him and dwell with him forever.
Last Sunday we sang "Who Would Have Dreamed" by Sovereign Grace Music, and I was nearly knocked off my feet by the third verse:
Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse
So we can be daughters and sons
These are things I knew! Truths I've learned since I was a child! But never before have I seen how incredible and incomparable this is. Christmas is magical. It is special. It is God's unspeakable, irreplaceable, matchless gift.
When I compare my understanding of Christmas and all the fondness I have for it to the reality of the Creator of everything coming to dwell with us, I am dumbfounded. How could I let myself worry about the ribbons on the tree and if my gifts are wrapped nicely enough? How could I spend my time thinking (and singing) about Santa and his reindeer when Christmas is the story of how everything changed?
I don't want to stop celebrating and enjoying those traditions and festivities that I have always loved, but my eyes are a little more open to the depth of the season I've been overlooking. I will still watch White Christmas, wrap gifts, and (hopefully) do a little better with my decorating next year. But I also hope and pray that God continues to reveal the gravity of Christmas, so that I see his glory more and more.