Christmas is a strange time of year for me. In most places the season tends to revolve around children. For most people, that is a wonderful time to recreate. However, for me, childhood is hardly a place I want to revisit. The first Christmas morning I have a memory of I was about eleven. From my view of things, the whole Christmas thing seemed rather mocking. Santa coming to fulfill my every wish? That was hardly reality. I could more closely identify with a Child who had every odd against Him.
Which is probably why the thing I most remember about Christmas’s in those years were the candlelight services. Every Christmas Eve we held a candlelight service at church. Real candles were used and we sang worshipful Christmas songs. It was simple, sweet and peaceful. For years, I tried to recreate those candlelight services in my own home. I only wanted clear lights, candles and songs that were worshipful. I’d create this atmosphere and sit at night in my “candlelight” soaking in the experience. That was more Christmas to me than any other typical Christmas tradition.
It wasn’t the atmosphere or the people that had affected me so deeply. It was the Presence of the Spirit of God that moved me as a child, chased me through the chaos and was what I struggled to stay connected with my whole life. Christmas was a time I would attempt to physically recreate an atmosphere I thought was necessary to lead me to that Presence.
I craved the Presence of the Lord as that was the one place I felt peace. I could escape for a moment when His Presence would overshadow me. It was the same effect I felt standing in front of our living room window after a rain. It was Him. I would rest there and press in for a momentary reprieve from the demonic vortex that was my life. That is what I sought.
When my children were small, I did whatever they enjoyed at Christmas. I did my best to fulfill my husband’s traditions or things people had told my children they were supposed to do or experience at Christmas. Since Christmas was such a big deal to everyone else I was concerned if I didn’t do all those things I would stunt their childhood. Unfortunately, it was all lost on me. I couldn’t find the Presence of God in a tree, decorations, songs about Santa or even gifts.
Since then, I’ve found the place of Peace but it’s not because of a time of year or a season. I spend time daily in His Presence and that is my breath – my oxygen. It is what gives me life. And that is something I get to experience every day now. I don’t have to wait for a certain time of year, white lights, candles and certain music to find it. His Presence is available every moment.
People look to many things to bring them comfort or stir their excitement. Unfortunately, sentimental traditions can quickly become false refuges. Oh, one can throw Jesus in there now and again to make sure they don’t totally ignore Him but in reality – true reality – what they are celebrating isn’t always Him. It’s family, memories, feel-good moments – which are not bad things. But it is important to remember the “Christmas spirit” is not the Holy Spirit.
The real Spirit of Christmas shows up in surprising places and awakens in us something far more powerful than sentimentalism. Angels appeared to lowly shepherds. “Wise” men from far away lands saw a star and were so captivated they had to find the end of it, traveling as far as possibly 900 miles to reach it. The original “Christmas” was hardly the sentimental scene we make of it. It was in reality a time of trial, peril, and miracles. The Savior of us all was born in a makeshift “home” in a land under occupation and even at birth was immediately in danger of violence and death.
As a child trapped in a web of abuse and deceit, the Spirit of Christmas was as simple as the soft light of a candle and a quiet song of worship that would pierce the darkness and lead me to Jesus in the cold Decembers.