No Matter How Much Bing I Listen to, It's Just Not Enough
A couple of weeks ago, I was getting my hair done and Christmas came into our conversation. She hadn’t put up her tree yet, and she mentioned how it just didn’t feel like December. Was it the weather? I think all southerners can attest to the fact that when you’re at your town’s Christmas festival in a t-shirt and shorts, it can play games with your mind. I was just hoping there were a couple Santas taking shifts or Nike made him a special Dri-FIT suit, that poor, sweet man. That’s why you will never find a classic Christmas movie filmed in Texas. You just won’t—it kills the mood. Can you imagine good ole Bing, Danny, Vera-Ellen, and Rosemary singing Snow on the train as it pulls into the Dallas train station? No, I don’t even want to think about it. Good job, Vermont. Way to hold your own for that little White Christmas film.
It got me thinking, though. Why does Christmas require more focus to get in the spirit when you’re an adult? I remember being a kid watching Miracle on 34th Street and hearing Ms. Walker (the mom) say that Christmas is for children. I felt so sorry for her! I remember thinking that was the most tragic line of the movie. A lot of the movie (okay, all of the movie) is based on believing in Santa, and Ms. Walker didn’t believe, so she found little joy in Christmas. Thinking back on that and taking time to pause on what Christmas looks like to so many now, there might be a connection. People. We base the joy of our Christmas on people.
Materialism gets a lot of flack this time of year from people trying to do more with their money, or trying to remember what Christmas is supposed to be about. Even if we experience the simplest Christmas possible, though, we can still completely miss the point.
Maybe you aren’t spending as much time with your family as you’d like. Maybe you’re in the middle of a rift with a family member, and Christmas just doesn’t feel right this year. Maybe your usual traditions just don’t seem as special with all your kids being out of the house now. Or maybe things have been going fine, but you still feel a little isolated and unsatisfied. The thing is, whether it’s a jolly man bringing you presents, a family member, or yourself, people will eventually fail you whether it’s intentional or not.
Thank goodness that’s not what Christmas is about.
We moved to our current house the week before Christmas last year. Blake managed to pull our stockings and Advent tree out of a box, but that was it. We didn’t decorate a tree, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even pull out my wrapping paper. I was really so sad because it felt like Christmas wasn’t happening—at least not like I thought it was supposed to. I don’t remember if there was something specific that triggered the lesson I needed to learn, but I remember it hitting hard—that all of these things I was sad about had absolutely nothing to do with the actual meaning of Christmas. I had created this dimension of Christmas that was enjoyable, yes, but it should never have made or broken Christmas.
Christmas is about Jesus. It’s about grace entering into the world through Him and Him alone. Before Jesus was born, people were chained to the law. Can you imagine? If you messed up, that was it. And yes, there are still laws and rules to follow, but oh, you guys, there is GRACE. We are only required to accept and embrace it. Even better, once we truly accept it into our lives every day, we find ourselves so free to give grace to others.
So yes, getting together with family can be beautiful. Giving gifts can be a thoughtful experience. The music and movies can encourage us to be kinder—to slow down and think of others before ourselves. Traditions are great for making memories; Blake & I love adding new ones each year for our growing family. But these things are not why we have Christmas. If we get caught up in thinking they are, we will be so disappointed.
If you’ve read or seen C.S. Lewis’ Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, you remember the White Witch sets a curse making it “always winter, never Christmas.” That is life without God….or Aslan, if you’re reading the story.
Imagine traveling to a new place you’ve always wanted to visit but have never been before. You get to your hotel, but as soon as you see a window overlooking a great view, you set your luggage down and just watch. The whole time you’re there, you just stay in your window and watch. You see people having conversations, enjoying meals together. You see some of the culture you’ve been longing to immerse yourself in for what feels like your whole life. But you just watch. You can now say you were there and maybe that you experienced some of the things you hoped for. But you weren’t a part of it. Your soul’s thirst for the real experience wasn’t quenched. That’s what Christmas is if we don’t grasp what it’s meant to be. We may get some of the perks of the season. We may feel a surge of energy and joy from the change of pace. Our souls were meant for more, though. God fully intended Christmas to be an end to our waiting for saving.
There’s a struggle with this, understandably so. The suffering in this world has never seemed so debilitating. Loved ones are sick, dying, or have already left us. We need to look no further than our own cities to see cycles of poverty, abuse, and neglect. Then we look beyond our personal borders to see horrific murders, slavery, and war. A single example could send us into an overwhelming state of panic. And we’re supposed to focus on this season being the end to our suffering?
Jesus was born into suffering. Remember that precious nativity scene we see all over the place this time of year? That’s the romantic version of a barn—where Jesus was born because everyone said their homes were full. He was sought after from infancy in order to be killed. He spent His life being surrounded by the suffering of others because He was there to be a light for them. And He was—and He still is.
I heard someone say if we start our thought process by looking at the problems of the world and try tracing them back to God, it’s extremely difficult. But if we start by focusing on God, it’s not that the problems of the world decrease or disappear, but we have His peace in our hearts and can then be His light to one person at a time. He gets suffering. He gets loneliness. He gets broken hearts and feeling misunderstood. He gets the outcast because He was one. That’s what makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year—because it truly is the beginning of the end of our suffering.
“Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.”
-O Holy Night
This article is amazing concerning suffering through the Christmas season. Ann Voskamp is such a light for Him. I have no doubt every person who reads this will be impacted for the good: How Even Pain and Division Can’t Steal Our Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas, dear friends. I truly hope you find joy in this season from our Savior. Now fix yourself some hot cocoa and go listen to some Bing, Sinatra, Armstrong, and Fitzgerald…and keep dreaming.