O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels O come, let us adore Him Christ the Lord!
I have always embraced all things Christmas, beginning the day after Thanksgiving…music, movies, décor, shopping, bazaars, baking, and holiday events. I have attended church on the Sundays prior to Christmas, but the past few Christmases I have finally begun to understand and embrace Advent and how to immerse myself in the Christmas story.
While trying to distract me during an unpleasant medical procedure a few days ago, the nurse asked me what I was going to do for Christmas this year. For some reason it caught me off-guard, and my wimpy answer was “Nothing”. I have thought about my response for days, and my true answer is that while my husband and I have few plans for THE day, we are approaching Christmas as a month-long gaze at Jesus from the gospel accounts. We are awakening our souls anew to the wonder of the magnificent story of the Messiah (what I’d like to call a Type 1 Christmas). We have been doing a daily Advent reading and are learning so much by focusing primarily on the birth of Christ (1st Advent) which has already occurred, and the future return of Christ (2nd Advent – the Coming of the King).
For most of this year we have been planning a trip to Israel in 2023, and as the time gets closer my heart is stirred with anticipation. We will literally be going to Bethlehem to where Jesus was born. I’m going to see places I have read about all my life. I am going to learn new things about my savior through experiencing Israel in-person. As I approach this bucket list trip, I don’t want to mystify a place, but rather through visiting it, I want to know the Savior’s story in new, deeper, and more accurate ways. Looking ahead to Christmas with an advent perspective can also help us to understand what the holiday really holds for the believer and how to “come to Bethlehem” in our hearts.
The Christmas season comes alive when we prioritize our relationship with Him. As Americans, we can easily slip into the commercial version of Christmas…what I’m going to call Type 2 Christmas. I do it every year. I pull out tote upon tote of Christmas decorations and completely transform the décor of my house to reflect the season. Next comes the shopping, baking, music, and Hallmark Christmas movies. All these things give me a feeling of pleasure that the rest of the year doesn’t quite pull together into an all-encompassing sensory experience. If I’m totally honest with myself, those things feel good, but often the deeper feeling of satisfaction or joy is elusive. Type 2 Christmas ends up falling short in some way…like by getting Christmas cards out late, or not at all, or I didn’t get someone a gift that really pleased them, or I became sad because there was sickness when I anticipated a healthy family gathered all in one place for a special evening.
This year I know Christmas is going to “fall short” on many accounts at Type 2 Christmas, but thankfully, I am learning to spend more time on allowing Level 1 Christmas to have full impact in my heart. It has not disappointed. My heart is full of a peaceful joy as I spend time in scripture that focuses on the story of Jesus, even though I have heard this story since I was a little girl. I wish I could better capture in words how the meaning of Jesus coming as a baby brings primary focus to my celebration of the holiday.
I now see Christmas decorations and Type 2 celebration traditions as an invisible arrow pointing to Jesus. Even fat, old generous Santa reminds me that the season is ultimately about the greatest gift the world has ever known, but that not all people are comfortable really looking at the spiritual gift of Jesus and His Salvation. They have a partial understanding of goodness and kindness shown through this mythical depiction of a gift giver that they can “bring to life” through costume, their own generosity, and children’s innocent wonder and trust. It is the embodiment of Type 2 Christmas and it’s a substitutional joy.
For me, I take these commercial or secular versions of Christmas and I enter in because of the earthly pleasure they bring, and I do see validity in enjoying friends and family, food, gifts, music and decoration, BUT I am now intentionally shifting my mind to have these things point me to God and His larger story, and to not just give a nod to Christ at Christmas, but to make Him central in celebrating this holiday that all started with His birth.
I approach THE day of Christmas with an intent to truly adore Him. To worship with authenticity. To serve Him in some way that brings Him honor and glory. To give sacrificially as He would desire for me to give. This year has held many griefs in my life, and they are not going to disappear magically because I drink hot cocoa, attend a tree lighting, volunteer at the local mission, or have two dozen wrapped presents under my tree. Grief will be present within me as I intentionally choose joy in celebrating the birth of my Savior and what that means for me eternally. I will worship and adore Him.
I consider myself among the “faithful” in the Christmas hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful” even though I am far from being perfectly faithful in every action, thought, or attitude. I seek to realign myself with Jesus’ teaching and example whenever I move away from being a faithful follower, and I desire to know Him as He is and to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Oh, come, ‘faithful ones’, to this adoration. Bring your own grief, worry, strife, sin, weakness, loneliness, and your falling-short Type 2 Christmas intentions, and lay them down while worshipping. Whether it is at a Christmas Eve service, or a Christmas morning service, in your easy chair by the fire, in a hospital bed, or on a mountaintop all by yourself with the Lord. Come in your spirit to “Bethlehem” and behold the gift that was given for you…and for us all. Sing to Him with a joyous, triumphant spirit that connects with the Christ who has made a way for you to know the peace of eternity with Him through His work on the cross. Bow down and worship the Messiah, the King, the Savior who came, lived, died, resurrected, and will come again one day for the faithful, which anyone can count themselves if they accept the gift of Salvation Jesus freely offers.
Have a Merry Blessed Christmas Blog Readers!