Christmas is a strange time of year for me. Christmas in the western part of the world 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. Coming from my view, the whole Christmas thing must have 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. That I could identify with.
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 carols. 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 trees, decorations, trips to the mall, presents or 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 had impacted 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 that I thought was necessary to lead me to that Presence.
I had always 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 relax for a moment in that 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 experience the Presence of God in a tree, decorations, silly songs about Santa or 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. I don’t have to wait for a certain time of year, a tree, presents or jingle bells to find it. His Presence is available every moment.
People look to many things to bring them comfort and 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 really Him. It’s family, memories, feel-good moments. It’s trying to revive a feeling that is largely based on the past and emotional responses. The “Christmas spirit” is not the Holy Spirit.
I guess for non-Christians, the “Christmas”season may be their only link to some kind of hope this time of year. That would be great if the message was super clear that Jesus IS that hope. However, the message even in churches is completely mixed and mostly sentimental. How empty that must be when it under-delivers! My heart aches for the world. This year is especially bleak for many. So many refugees and the horror in Aleppo leaves my heart heavy. Uncertainty abounds with threats from terrorists groups as well as political groups filling the airways. (Maybe the two are the same? But that would be another blog post.) If all we as Christians do is offer empty sentimentality, trinket “gifts” and emotional highs and expect that to meet the deep need of this world, it seems foolish at best.
Perhaps we think we need the glitter and distractions to gain people’s attention. I humbly submit, the Lord is well able to bring attention to Himself with those who are truly seeking. 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 a time of trial, peril, and miracles. A Child was born in a makeshift “home” against all odds; a Child Who was almost immediately in danger of violence and death. We have come so far from the original story.
It is a wonderful thought to think the world would focus on Jesus at least one time a year. But if we mix the season with confusion we may in fact be leading them away from instead of to Him. I hope we realize if we don’t get to the point, we only contribute to the bleakness many experience in their day to day existence. The point is Jesus; unadulterated and pure. For me, as a child trapped in a demonic cult, it was the only thing that could pierce the darkness.
May we honor Him always and seek His Presence in spirit and in truth. May we learn from 2016 and enter 2017 in the Presence of the Spirit of Truth – wiser, humbler, and completely captivated by Jesus. May we deeply know for ourselves and release to the world, both around us and far off, the true meaning of everything – Jesus. Amen