by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro copyright 2020
Oct 22 to Jan 6 reflections from an upcoming book for tending hurting hearts at Christmas
I confess. Even though my intent has always been for Christmas to be about celebrating Jesus’ birth, for most of my life that feeling of a buoyed up heart—which supposedly goes with the “holidays”—was driven by festive get-togethers and pretty decorations, yummy, fresh-baked aromas, pretty packages and the pleasant, relaxed laughter of people gathering who were important to me as they enjoyed each other. These were the images of the season, which drove my love for this time of year. The Nativity scene, Bible readings and church services were key parts which I thought made Jesus centermost. But really, Jesus was not the center of my Christmas. Traditions about Him were. I enjoyed the ritual.
Of course, I found ways to make all of the spectacular-ness of it God-honoring. On the one hand, wasn’t all this “Christmas-ing” a reflection of God? Weren’t all my traditions at their best rooted in good choices to “love my neighbor”, especially those closest to me?
For instance, God was all about gifts, wasn’t He? In fact, Jesus was The Christmas Gift! (Or so we said.) The Magi presented gifts to the Holy Family. The Holy Spirit gave. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control. Christmas at its best was trying to love beyond self, right? Weren’t gifts part of this?
I mean, they represented love, didn’t they? Weren’t the gifts I sought to give often a taking of the time to see and care for the ones next to me more than I otherwise might notice them all year? (Not on purpose, but just because that was the way it generally was.)
So, Christmas traditions put a good focus more on others than at other times. Wasn’t this beautiful? Wasn’t this God-love manifesting and thus good? Less a focus on self. What self needed less dominant. What self wanted pushed more to the background. Self-consoling priorities diminished. What self was striving for. This neighborliness honored Jesus. It honored His command to love the one next to me. None of this bad. In fact, good. In its own way. Right?
Perhaps. But when Christmas wasn’t the same—when all this other-ness just wasn’t satisfying or even caused pain—maybe the Lord wanted to impart something different. Something greater and more. In the downtrodden-ness of how the season felt, He longed to change it—to somehow elevate my concept of Christmas beyond what I had previously been willing to pause and consider.
Perhaps it was time for Christmas a new way, where all this fluffiness (and even surface, human-made cheerfulness) when pushed aside would reveal a richer, truer Christmas core.
O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
I am ready, Lord. So ready. Lead me into the deep waters of Christmas which help me to know and understand You more. Help Christmas to become the rich time of celebration which has no need of traditions but can still enjoy these. Let it become truly a time of reveling in You and what You really came to be and do.
6 Seek, inquire for, and require the Lord while He may be found [claiming Him by necessity and by right]; call upon Him while He is near.
8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
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