24 Dec 2018
I am a Christmas fan. I am also an optimist. When it comes to the glass half full or half empty question, I am just delighted to have made it to the land of grown-ups where I’m trusted with a glass in the first place!
However … the Christmas glow, with which I began December, has faded. Oh, the plans I had! My rosy cheeked children gathered thankfully around atmospherically-lit family meal times with heartfelt prayers and Bible readings. My family trotting out to Christmas events and church services looking catalogue-ready accompanied by hordes of invited friends – who then decide to not only trust in Jesus, but actually become just like us in their tastes and hobbies. The home-made masterpieces that I planned to whip up – from cards to mince pies - and gifts I thoughtfully purchased whilst wearing a red wool coat and leather gloves. It all remains a dream.
Because my life is actually not a Hallmark movie!
We have dragged ourselves through December with vomiting, arguments and take away meals. There has been hay in our bed. I know a lot about delivery times for pom-pom sheep and teepees. No cards are written. No pastry is made. And I still don’t own a red wool coat. I feel like we have attended, supported and organised more church events than you can shake a candy cane at. I gave a talk at one where I think I may have shouted at people that they need to feel the joy of Jesus this Christmas – while mine seems to be ebbing away.
My determination to remain optimistic is not enough. I don’t feel Christmassy. I just feel tired and a little bit sad.
So I took myself to the middle step of the stairs - a few above the naughty step. I had a think and a pray. You know what? It’s alright, because no matter what I feel there is an unchanging fact that I know is absolute and forever!
I AM LOVED!
Jesus loves me – despite my grumpiness and unreasonableness
Jesus loves me – despite my failure to make mince pies and write cards
Jesus actually really loves me – and doesn’t care about my coat.
Can I share my discovery? In that Christmassy verse when the angel speaks to the shepherds (Luke 2: 10-11)
But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
The angel promised, ‘great joy for all people’. That word ‘joy’ is a very special one. It is the elation the wise men felt when the star finally stopped above the King they had left their country to find (Matt 2:10). It is the heart-pounding thrill that the man in Jesus‘ parable felt as he skipped along to sell everything he owned so that he could buy the field full of priceless treasure (Matt 13:44). It is the fist-pumping relief of the shepherd in Jesus’ parable when he finally found his lost sheep that so overwhelmed him that he called together his whole town for a street party (Luke 15:7). It is the jaw-dropping, mystified, daring-to-believe ecstatic euphoria Jesus' disciples felt when he stood alive in front of them on Easter Sunday (Luke 24: 41).
And it is the great joy that you and I have been given this Christmas. Whether I feel Christmassy or not.
He came to earth as my Saviour. He lived graciously and selflessly and lovingly welcomed all those who were prepared to admit they needed Him to be their Saviour.
He came so that I might know this joy. Even if I don’t feel it – HE LOVES ME. He came loving me, He lived loving me, He died loving me, He rose loving me, He is in heaven loving me, He is with me loving me. This is the wonderful overwhelming joy that the angel promised.
So no matter how you feel this Christmas, take a moment on your equivalent of the middle step to reflect on the love that causes this joy.
Perhaps, if you want your family to remember a little of this greater joy on Christmas day…
• when the children jump on your bed on Christmas day morning, after they’ve stopped bouncing, sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, or pray thanking God for his son’s birth.
• before you eat the largest meal of the year ask each person around the table to thank God for their favourite part of the Christmas story.
• after you’ve ripped open every present and as the wrapping paper storm is just starting to settle, each person thank God for one person who has shown them love, by celebrating Jesus' birth with a present.
• as each of you collapses into bed with a mix of delirious happiness and profound anti-climax thank God that his love is new every day and his joy can be the same tomorrow.