The Heart of Christmas

The last leaves have fallen off the trees, the fall decorations have been packed away, and the Thanksgiving leftovers are long gone. Every time I step outside the cold December air reminds me that autumn is quickly nearing it’s end. The Christmas tree is up, nativity displayed, the baking has begun, Christmas shopping is in full swing, and the melodies of Christmas music fill the air. It’s that time of year!

Thanksgiving has passed quickly, advent has begun, and Christmas is near. While I’m preparing to celebrate Christmas, I feel like my heart isn’t ready. I’ve contemplated this. Why do I not feel focused on celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth? How do I prepare my heart to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas the way it deserves to be celebrated?

We drag our Christmas decorations out of storage, pick the perfect tree, hang our lights, and buy and wrap our gifts. We spend hours untangling Christmas lights and planning Christmas parties. We bake cookies, light candles, and decorate our dinner tables. What if we prepared our hearts for Christmas the same way we prepare our homes?

I’ve realized that advent isn’t just some special ritual, days to mark off on a calendar, candles to light, or a list of all the things we must do to prepare for Christmas. Rather, it’s about bringing our weary hearts to the feet of Jesus and lifting our eyes towards him. So, for the next couple of weeks, as we approach Christmas, I’m surrendering myself. I’m setting my eyes on Jesus and refusing to neglect my heart in the chaos of Christmas.

This season reminds me the importance of intentionally setting my heart on the beautiful, gracious gift of Christ.  Our faith, our relationship with God, requires that we be intentional. Satan wants nothing more than to overwhelm us with the world and to pull us away from God. We have to be on guard, we have to be aware of the battle raging in our souls. Christmas provides one of the greatest reminders for us to celebrate God’s gift of grace, yet it also offers the most distractions from the true celebration.

Christmas, for me, is a time of  remembrance and reflection. We remember God’s faithful love woven through the pages of the Old Testament. We see prophecies and foreshadowings of the coming Messiah. We see the people’s sinful nature and rebellion and their desperate need for reconciliation to God. We reflect on how God has worked personally, in our own lives. We look through the tears, pain, joy, and laughter that have paved the road to where we now stand and we see that God is faithful. We see our own brokenness, our own rebellion, and our own desperate need for a savior.

Then, we celebrate; we rejoice. The whole Bible, all of humanity since the fall, leads to God’s amazing gift of Christ. This is the climax of the story of the Bible, it’s the climax of our own story, the coming of Our King.  Christmas is about making room in our hearts for us to wonder, marvel, and praise the beauty of Jesus’s birth and what it means for us today. Of course, Jesus deserves to be worshipped, praised, and celebrated everyday, with every breath. However, Christmas is set aside as a time of intentional remembrance. We are all busy, forgetful, and sinful, we fail to give God the praise he deserves. At Christmas, we’re reminded. We are reminded to celebrate Jesus the way he deserves to be celebrated every day of the year.

I’m creating room in my heart and time in my schedule to intentionally marvel at Jesus’s birth. The bright lights, music, and gifts are all a part of the celebration, but far too often they crowd our heart until the true reason of our celebration grows dim. We can pray as we hang our Christmas lights. We can give our gifts generously out of the overflow of gratitude of God’s gift to us. We can celebrate the joy that Jesus brings by dancing to Christmas music while we decorate the tree. We can rest in the peace of God’s love with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket. We can love, just as God has shown his love for us, around the dinner table with our family and friends. This is the heart of Christmas.

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