I blinked and it's Christmas. I'm still not sure how that happened.
Christmas is looking a lot different to me this year. Honestly, I haven't ever really given much thought to what this season is about. In the past, it's been a time of joyous gatherings, listening to Christmas music, baking too many batches of cookies, and giving and receiving many gifts. I love giving gifts. So naturally, this is a time I thoroughly enjoy.
However, as we slid into December this year, I started feeling a little weird about it all. Why do we make such a big deal about Santa, but not a big deal about Christ? Why does it fill my heart with joy to sing, "do you wanna build a snowman" and I feel lukewarm singing "the Lord has come"? Why am I running around feeling like each person I love needs to be given a lavish gift from me to express that love? It all felt weird, and suddenly very uncomfortable. I felt so guilty for never once celebrating Advent before. I wasn't really sure how to celebrate a baby in a manger... it just felt like part of the Christmas decor.
Let me back-track a minute and say that Thanksgiving was a time of immense joy for my family. We gathered (even stayed in a big house for several days together!) and had 24 people sit down to dinner with us. We've never done this before. We didn't know what to expect. And God stepped in and made some beautiful memories happen.
Shortly after that, Chris's only sibling had her first baby. We were able to travel and be there when little Cassidy was born. We took turns holding her and loving on the new mom and dad. Again, God stepped in and made some beautiful memories happen for our family.
So I have some pretty big expectations for Christmas. What if it doesn't go well? What if people don't have fun? What if someone gets accidentally offended? (It's possible any or all of these things could happen, because that's what happens when you get people together. Because people – because life – is messy. And the mess is a beautiful thing.)
My expectations for the season include long, deep conversations by the fire. Miraculous healing in relationships. For everyone to have a good time together. For me to be able to eloquently express to friends and family how much I love them. For Chris and I to dream and talk about 2015 and be on the same page. I fantasize so much, and I know that's just not what this season is about... not even the good things, like family. So I start to walk with a burden of guilt for not knowing how to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
But you know what's crazy? God redeems that. All of those feelings – all of the promises we expect Christmas to come through on – those feelings aren't wasted. They are purposeful. The yearning to watch "Elf" ten times in a four week period? It's because you yearn to feel the innocent joy over the birth of our Savior. The hope you have to see family come together in love? That's hope for Christ's triumphant return. They're just misplaced desires, desires that take up just an inch of the immense magnitude God's glory demands. Because you feel these things, you already know in your heart how to celebrate the birth and coming return of our Lord.
I'm learning how to do this, day by day. God is so good to provide when you come to Him and ask. Let's take the small joys of the holiday season and turn them into huge songs of praise for Jesus Christ. All those cookies you baked? Take them to your neighbors, or maybe drive around and pass them out to the homeless. Start thinking about the lyrics of Christmas hymns and singing them honestly as praise to the Lord. Invite your loved ones into your home and don't worry about whether or not you have a DIY setting for each person. Instead of spending money on a nice gift for someone, why not invite them to grab a cup of coffee with you so that you can tell them how amazing they are? (Or, if that totally freaks you out, just tell them you love them to their face and hand them a letter with the details of how great they are. It works just as well :) ) And when it seems hard or tough or that the holidays just aren't meeting your expectations, remember that Christ is coming back. Really. That's a new one I've learned to appreciate this year. When the news gets scary or you don't know what to say, just pray and thank God for Jesus's promise to return and make all things new. Let Earth receive her King :)