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I haven’t felt much “Christmas Spirit” yet this year. I feel like Cindy Lou Who from the Jim Carrey “Grinch” movie – “where are you, Christmas? Why can’t I find you? My world is changing – I’m rearranging – does that mean Christmas changes too?”

I can’t exactly pinpoint why – but frankly I think it’s a number of things. On a basic level – we just don’t have much snow, and I don’t know about you, but I’m dreaming of a white Christmas (just like the ones I used to know, anyway). But it’s more than that of course. Holidays change when you get older – try hard as you might, but Christmas just doesn’t have the magic that it used to when you were a kid. Back then, you had Christmas break to look forward to, Christmas parties and gifts at school, snow days, cookie-eating, and present-getting! Now, we have to make the cookies ourselves, organize the parties, work through the snow days, and don’t even ask about a Christmas break from work!

As for Olivia and I, we’re running around, trying to keep things running smoothly at work, prep for Christmas Eve and other services at Journey,  working hard trying to get our house and our lives ready for a baby coming (very) soon – which is super exciting, don’t get me wrong! And on top of that, of course we still have presents to buy and cookies to bake (okay, maybe the cookie-making isn’t so bad). I’m stressing, y’all!

And I know I’m not alone. It’s hard to focus on Christmas, on the excitement of getting together with family and friends, the cookies, the decorations, and everything else that comes with it, when life just doesn’t seem to slow down and give you time to enjoy it. One of my absolute favorite Christmas songs is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, and there’s great arrangements out there (Casting CrownsEchosmithMercyMe, to name a few). The verses, in my opinion, tell a great Christmas story.

“I heard the bells on Christmas day – their old, familiar carols play…and in despair I bowed my head – ‘there is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.'” This song, a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was written around the Civil War. Longfellow’s wife had tragically died in a house fire, and his oldest son was severely injured in the war. Longfellow was certainly familiar with hurt. With all the pain, the stress, the problems that life can throw at us, it’s hard to see Christmas for what it is, for the exciting time it should be, and the joy that it should bring. Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth – it mocks the song of Christmas, the very idea of Christmas itself. “Why should you celebrate now”, hate cries out – “why would you rejoice in this world, in your life, in all the things going wrong? What hope do you have?”

“Then pealed the bells, more loud and deep – ‘God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.'” Hate cries out, mocking the season, ridiculing us, putting us down into hopelessness – but there is one more voice that cries out at Christmas. Louder than any cries of pain, deeper than any wound that we might have, more important than any presents, any cookies, any work, is the cry of a baby. Drowning out all else is the sound of the very Word of God born to us, the reason we celebrate Christmas. These two voices compete for our attention – which are we listening to? God has come to us. He hears us, He sees us, and He comes down to us. THAT is what “Christmas spirit” is – rejoicing in the birth of Jesus, the baby who has come to take pain and sorrow away. That doesn’t mean your life will magically get easier, or things will miraculously start going your way – but there is Hope. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail – because Jesus is here, and He has come so that we can have hope.

I pray this Christmas season, that no matter what issues come your way, you would be able to find comfort in the birth of Jesus, God come to earth. That when sorrow comes your way, you’d be able to look ahead to the joy that comes because of Jesus’ birth – the joy He brings to us and will bring us to in eternity. I pray when life rings loud with troubles and hurt that you would hear the bells ringing louder still of hope and love found in Christ, and I pray that when the stress of the holiday season takes hold – as we all know it will – that you’d be able to find peace in the baby born in Bethlehem – to focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas. Take a moment to breathe this season. Find peace and rest in Jesus – the only reason for peace on earth and goodwill to men – and Merry Christmas.