I (Geneva U.) have always loved Christmas. From the time I was six years old, I would do everything that I could to earn enough nickels to buy my parents and all of my siblings a present. Starting as early as August, I would spend hours upon hours writing poems, painting rocks, drawing pictures, and making cards to go along with my “fancy store bought gift” from the Dollar Tree. I created long, green and red paper chains to help me count down the days until the long awaited morning of December the 25th.
When I was a child, every aspect of Christmas overwhelmed my little heart with inexplicable excitement. I loved running around the Christmas tree farm with my siblings, intent on finding the perfect Scotch pine. I loved decking the tree with lovely ornaments (many of which felt like old friends). I loved watching God “sprinkle the world with powdered sugar,” creating a beautiful winter wonderland that was perfect for sledding down our hills and ice skating on our neighbor’s pond! I especially loved our annual “Scrooge & Butter Cookies” tradition. Dad would put on his Santa hat and, all together as a family, we’d make countless Spritz cookies! We’d eat them that same evening while watching the most wonderful Christmas musical ever, the 1970’s version of “Scrooge.” I was definitely one of the “Christmas Children” that Bob Cratchit sings about in this wonderful song (to this day, I can’t help feeling tingly all over whenever I hear it 🙂 ).
I could ramble on for a long time about the wonders of Christmas time (I haven’t even started on our Christmas Eve and Christmas day traditions!), but I think you get the picture. I was a “Christmas Child” who “lived in a Christmas daydream, waiting for the magic to unfold.”
The traditions continued, but as everyone grew older, the “Christmas magic” slowly began to lose its charm. Things changed, and it hurt to the point of tears. Why couldn’t everything be the way it was when I was little? I had a couple of holiday seasons where the thought of Christmas hardly excited me at all. Making cookies, decorating the tree, even opening presents—it all seemed empty.
The truth is: those things are empty on their own. Christmas is nothing unless Jesus is at the heart of it. I’m not trying to say that love between family and friends is nothing, because that would be false. I’m only saying that everything—including the love between friends and family—is nothing without God’s love (which brought everything into existence and continuously sustains all of creation). God’s love gave us the ability to love: “We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
A lot has changed since I experienced those “empty” Christmases. In the last couple of years, every tradition, every moment spent with and for my loved ones, has been filled with so much meaning and purpose that my heart cannot begin to fathom, it cannot possibly contain, the beauty of Christmas.
What enkindled my newfound love for Christmas? I have grown a lot in my relationship with Christ over the last five years (a natural thing for someone who is transitioning from a child to a young woman). And now, after experiencing a lot of “growing pains” (which are all for the best, regardless of how miserable they are!), Christmas has become a more joyful celebration than ever before. Maybe I don’t have “visions of sugarplums” like I did when I was younger, but that’s okay. Instead, I have something that incites an even deeper and more abiding joy and excitement—a profound appreciation for the true meaning of Christmas:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Just think of it! A tiny little helpless child within His mother’s womb is our “Mighty God”! We hear these words, and so often they bounce off of our busy minds without truly sinking in. But truly consider it! The Creator of the Universe, the “Uncaused Cause” of everything that exists, became one of the most weak and vulnerable creatures on the face of the earth—an infant, who was utterly dependent on the care of His mother Mary and His foster-father Joseph!
It’s almost unbelievably amazing… Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God incarnate, came to earth to save humanity from its enslavement to sin and death! Being both God and man, Jesus restored our freedom (which I like to think of as our ability to love with God’s divine, agape love) by bridging the infinite breach between heaven and earth; “…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
For me, God’s gift of love, manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, is the true joy of Christmas. And it is also the true joy of living! No tradition, regardless of how wonderful it may be, could ever compare to the infinite (INFINITE) love of God. God’s love is truth, beauty, goodness, peace, joy, fulfillment, hope—everything wonderful—wrapped up… in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. 🙂
I wish all of you and your families an incredibly blessed and joyful Christmas. I pray that this season (and every season) will be a time of growing in the happy realization that God loves you with His wonderful, infinite love. God bless!
Love in Christ,