THE EMOTIONS OF CHRISTMAS...
As we have now arrived into the Christmas season, I heard a new word describing these weeks before the big celebration. It is “anticipointment.” You won’t find it in a dictionary or thesaurus. But I suspect all of us can identify with what it means. The coined word reminds us this season is filled with a wide array of emotions from excited anticipation to frustrating disappointment.
During this season, perhaps more so than any other time of year, our emotions are stirred in so many ways. Consider what we take into our minds and hearts in these few weeks. There is the incomparable grandeur of the Christmas story, the decorated tree, the cards of greetings from our friends, the echoing refrain from familiar Christmas carols, the gifts, the arrays of goodies and the kaleidoscope of colors dancing before our eyes. Actually, such a word like the one above might have filled the season of the first Christmas.
It certainly was a time filled with emotion. One emotion we can identify with in this season is wonder. With quick brush strokes we remember how Luke painted the picture of dramatic and unexplainable announcements about a birth, the baby being born, angels filling the heavens and shepherds kneeling in stunned amazement. Luke 2:18 says, “And all who heard it wondered at the things told them by the shepherds.”
That silent night was split by the glorious presence of God as all the universe reflected the never-before-experienced moment. All the hopes of all the ages were fulfilled in this one spectacular night, yet in quite a different manner than anyone expected.
It’s easy to miss the wonder of the love of Mary and Joseph. The first Christmas so special to us presented them with an awesome challenge. Their marriage had not been consummated when Mary conceived her son. Pregnancy before marriage is unfortunately not so uncommon today, but in that day it was a crisis of immense magnitude. Doubt, confusion and accusation could have followed. The proper thing for a devout man to do was to separate himself from such a woman for the baby she was carrying was not his. But because of his love for her, he turned his back on the wagging tongues of the community. He swallowed his pride and accepted the incredible announcement of the angel that this was a special child given by God.
The Bible says Mary “pondered those things in her heart.” Imagine the immense emotional load on a teen-age girl. She certainly thought about the things happening but had no way of fully understanding what was happening around her. She met shepherds who were strangers yet fully aware that God had given her this child. There were Wise Men from afar and two old saints, Simon and Anna who told her they could now die in peace having seen the child.
What an incredible strain on comprehension and love was then and throughout His life. Yet throughout His life from beginning to the cross to the final victory, Mary loved her Son dearly. When we see her love, we are amazed at the strength God gave to this young woman.
A second emotion of the season is joy. Perhaps the most memorable song of the season is “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” How vividly that song expresses our joy in this season. I’m not talking about the fake smiles and polite gestures or the artificial happiness produced by stimulants to cover up empty lives. Joy is not something measured by how big the party or present. Rather it is that feeling of completeness rooted in a living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
In spite of whatever she faced, Mary lived with a constant awareness that God was at work in her life. Jesus brought joy to her life and He still does today to all who believe. When we believe that God loved us enough to become what we were in order that we could become what He is, that brings joy beyond explanation in human words. Joy is experienced in sharing the Good News that this One can meet every need and satisfy the hunger of every soul who would receive Him as Savior and Lord.
Another emotion of the season is sadness. This is not a contradiction of what I have said but recognition of the fact that in the midst of all the joy, there are some who find Christmas a depressing time. Sometimes it is the demands of the season in time, energy and resources. For others it is an awareness of the real emptiness and inability to enjoy life like others. There are those who look toward the end of the year and feel like a failure in accomplishments set out months before. And there are those who are sad because loved ones are no longer present.
While recognizable and understandable, sadness is not inevitable. A rediscovery of the true meaning of Christmas dispels much of it. If Christmas means anything, it means hope, fulfillment and peace. Peace comes to believers who refuse to march to the drumbeat of the material world and humble themselves before the King of Kings. Fulfillment comes not from delicacies on the world’s tables but from the One who is the Bread of Life. Hope comes not from a denial of death but from the realization that nor even death can eternally separate us from those we love in Jesus Christ.
I heard a story about a dad who found a way to mix truth and grace one year at Christmas. He and his family were putting up a big Nativity scene in their front yard. Finally all the little statues were in place: Mary, Joseph, the Baby in the manger, the Angels, the Shepherds, and various barnyard animals. Then little Scott came out carrying one of his favorite toys: a fierce Tyrannosaurus Rex, King of the dinosaurs. It was one of those plastic figures that you inflate. It towered over the Nativity Scene, looking fierce, big, green … and certainly out of place.
The dad tried to explain to Scott that Dinosaurs existed thousands of years before baby Jesus was born. He told him that prehistoric beasts just don’t belong in a Nativity Scene. But the little boy looked so heartbroken that the dad mixed grace with the truth. The truth was, a dinosaur didn’t belong there, but out of grace, the dad put the beloved toy behind the scene. So, the fierce Tyrannosaurus Rex hovered over the manger and everyone else.
Actually, that menacing beast hovering over the manger may not have been as out of place as you would think. The truth is that a dinosaur hovering over the manger is more appropriate than we might realize. For each of us there is a menacing character that threatens to rob us of all of the wonder, the joy and hope of Christmas. But at Christmas we can remember that the love of God expressed in the birth of His Son gives us the strength to face whatever comes our way. God has given us the Victory through the Gift of his Son. And that is why we can sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” I pray that you will experience the true meaning of the season with Christ and it will not be another year of