After surviving a year like this one, I thought the Christmas season would redeem all the mess. I looked forward to gazing at lights, drinking hot cocoa, cheerfully decking the halls, and lining my countertops with cookies shaped like snowmen and snowflakes. I envisioned feeling refreshed.
Instead, I spent the month stress-shopping online, complaining about the mail and snapping at my husband as he walked by.
This year there would be no travel plans, no family to see, no church service to attend. And because our normal had been uprooted, I felt pressured to do more this Christmas, not less.
I wanted to nail every Christmas-y thing I could think of – family pictures, Christmas cards, cookies, secret Santa, extra lights, Hallmark movies, gingerbread houses, matching pajamas, and special events. In an effort to fill my cup with cheer, I played familiar tunes and tried to be festive. All to no avail.
Despite my best efforts, I accomplished nothing more than being the grinch and grumpy pants of Christmas.
And to top it all off, I feel like I’m failing at Christmas this year. Even Jesus is getting my leftovers.
Nine months of isolation, stress and loneliness are taking a toll. Running on empty, I’m just ready for this season to end. And my attempt to salvage Christmas feels pitiful at best.
But Christmas is not something I can mess up. It’s not something I can fail or nail. Christmas is not the measure of my creativity, generosity, personal worth or faith.
Christmas is a person. It’s a relationship.
And that is really good news.
The birth of Jesus shines as a beacon of hope, goodness and love in this dark world. Jesus came to be with us and to offer a relationship – one that doesn’t depend on our ability, performance or mood. The gift of reconciliation that Jesus offers is life-giving and lasts forever. It can never be lost, stolen or withdrawn.
God’s love and acceptance will always be based on his performance, not mine. Though I shame myself for my perceived failures, Jesus will not. Shame has no authority in my relationship with Him. He overruled my shame and guilt when he carried my sin to the cross. Now, when I am struggling and stressed, Jesus moves toward me with compassion and strength. I don’t have to fake it to make it with Him. I don’t have to nail my life. Instead, I can come to Him weary and needy and unload my burdens and sorrows onto Him because He cares for me (1 Pet 5:7).
This season, I forgot that Jesus is the one who redeems my mess. Only Jesus can offer me true rest. His merit, not mine, is what brings restoration and peace. My relationship with Him is what makes the Christmas season truly merry and meaningful.
I don’t want to miss Christmas this year. Not the tradition or festivities, but the person of Jesus. I don’t want to miss out on the gift of relationship that Jesus brings – one of rest. Hope. Peace. Acceptance. Comfort and joy.
This Christmas, our relationship with Jesus is one we can receive and enjoy. It doesn’t depend on us or our efforts. And that is something we can celebrate everyday, no matter the time of year.
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