Jingle bells are ringing, Target is stocking Charlie Brown Christmas trees, and this year--Christmas will be different.
While I'm making my plans, deciding what to buy and for whom, and how high to ring up the credit card bill, I'll consider how things would look if Jesus was visiting this year. Would I be scurrying in the kitchen like Martha, prepping pies and frustrated that nobody is helping? Would I let the pies burn while I soaked up the presence of the Holy in my living room? Would I follow Jesus to the hospitals and low-income health centers to heal the sick, or go with him to the home of prostitutes and tax collectors for dinner? Would I trade glitz and glamor and beauty for humble service, the way he gave up the throne of heaven for a dirty animal feeding trough?
There's one thing that won't be different: my kids and I do Operation Christmas Child every year. This is the first year they'll be old enough to really understand what we're doing, but I look forward to packing shoeboxes for children in third-world countries every year, anyways. I walk the aisles at Walmart and sob for the women who can't buy their children the basics. And I sob that I get to buy somebody's little one undershirts and toys and pencils. I give money, because money's important, but something about physically packing boxes for children just pulls heaven down around my ears and I love it.
Advent activities, wreathes on the front door, light trails--those are great, and if they happen this year, that'll be so fun (maybe). But they probably won't happen, and unlike other years, that'll be ok. This year is going to be different. This year I've got my eyes on heaven.
Is my worth in an impeccably decorated home? In lavish & expensive gifts, and the envy of a culture that thinks I'm doing Christmas really, really well? Is my hope in a thousand likes on Instagram? Will I feel I've let down the whole world when my pies burn--will my heart cave in and my holiday ruin?
Or, are my feet on the rock? Can I follow the Spirit's leading, no matter what those around me think? Can I find the joy of the Lord even when my loved ones disappoint or frustrate me--as they will surely do at Christmas? Joy is my birthright as a Christian. It is a sure promise. In the midst of the desert, the presence of Christ transforms my barren thorns into mighty trees, with roots that sink deep. His nearness turns dead briers into flowering plants--stunning displays of beauty that spring up unrestrainedly.
This is my call this Christmas--joy. Will I make room in my heart and home for it? Will I seek it out, fight for it till it roots down deep in my heart, and springs up wildly? This year, Christmas will be different. This year, there will be joy.
If you've lost a loved one, or are walking through a time of illness or depression, much of this is not for you. You are fighting for joy this season, and that's ok. It's ok to be weary, and to shelter from the storm. My heart for you is that you experience God's power this season in your great weakness--that He wipes away your mourning and gives you His great joy in its stead. If you haven't yet found the kind of peace and joy we're talking about here, maybe you've never encountered Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. I don't know who you are, and what you've done, but I know he loves you. He paid the ultimate price so that you could be free of guilt and shame--and he wants to spend eternity with you. He stands at the door of your heart and knocks--will you let him in?