Over the past week, I have been mulling over my next blog post. It’s been some time since I blogged because quite frankly, my life has been on fast forward since early October. But, no more excuses. I made the commitment some time ago to launch this blog, and I now seek to push through and see this project to completion, whatever it eventually evolves into. I pray the process is not too painful for either you dear reader or for me.
What has been top of mind this December has been asking how we are going to celebrate Christmas during the recent upticks in this pandemic.
A LOSS OF TRADITION
As long as I can remember, Christmas tradition has been steeped in large, loud family gatherings, lots of food and gifts, and plenty of quality time with those I love both near and far. For the majority of my life, this was how I experienced God’s love and celebrated the birth of my Savior- in the gift of my messy, complicated, and oftentimes overly sentimental family members. Of them all, I am probably the chief offender.
This year, however, there will be no in-person family gatherings for us.
This fact has really had me examining my heart to understand what I truly hold dear. In the face of a looming shutdown and canceled holiday celebrations, I ask myself which I love more: The gift of family, relative wealth and blessing, or the Giver of those gifts? As a professing Christ-follower, I am asking how I can best celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, an historically verifiable event that is often tritely referred to as “the reason for the season.”
I would argue that as a culture, we have lost sight of, or perhaps never taken the time to properly understand what this event meant for the world during all the hustle and bustle of preparing food, buying gifts and attending holiday parties.
THE BLESSING OF A SOLITARY CHRISTMAS
I have been thinking a lot lately about one Christmas several years ago when a few days before, I caught what felt like a death virus. I do not mean to make light of the threat of the current virus pandemic. I lay there on the couch, coughing so hard my sides ached. I developed a splitting headache and fever. Despite mainlining NyQuil, my head was so stuffed up I couldn’t rest. That year, I remember being filled with self-pity, praying for the Lord to put me out of my misery. Instead of attending the large family gatherings I was accustomed to, I curled up with the Gospel of Luke on Christmas Eve and read it through to the end. In the midst of my suffering, reading that text provided me with fresh insight into the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that meant for me. It brought me great peace.
This is one of my more precious recent Christmas memories. Because of this, I decided to start reading a different gospel this week, the Gospel of Matthew.
Tonight, I found peace in the familiar words of the Beatitudes:
God blesses those who are poor and realize
their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
God blesses those who are persecuted
for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
(Matthew 5:3-10, New Living Translation)
Wherever you are, I pray these words bring you some measure of comfort and insight into what is truly important to the God who so desperately loves you and is inviting you into a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Death, suffering and loss have surrounded us, but we are not alone and we are not forgotten. Through Christ, God entered into our pain and suffering to provide hope for all who repent and believe in the truth of this miracle and historical event.
I invite you to read the Gospel of Matthew this Christmas season to start to learn for yourself what God has done.
2020 has certainly been a year of disruption and chaos. It has also been the year of the pause. I pray that we will embrace the blessings this year has offered in the hardship experienced and come out of it with a clearer vision for the future and a deeper understanding of what the birth of Jesus Christ means to the world.
Photo credit: MKucova