The sun has set on another Christmas.
Somehow it feels like my heart is sinking a little bit, too.
All the anticipation, it builds and builds, and then Christmas comes and goes and I find myself in the days after Christmas wondering how I missed it all.
I didn’t really miss it, of course. There were get-togethers and gift exchanges and cookie baking and ugly sweater parties and zoo lights and presents and music and movies and all the things I’ve come to associate with the Christmas season.
But in the midst of the hustle and bustle, it still felt like I was missing something.
And every year, as the sun sets on Christmas Day, I wonder what it could be.
I can still remember the Christmases of my childhood, the magic and wonder and joy of it all. Laughter with family, silly times with friends, two weeks off from school, rest and relaxation…it all felt so wonderful, so right.
And if I’m honest, I think I spend a lot of the holidays trying to bring those feelings back.
The movies, the music, the children’s books, the cookies, the traditions…so much of what I look forward to at Christmastime is devoted to the hope of reliving my childhood happiness.
And when those things don’t satisfy, they end up becoming one more task on an already overloaded to-do list.
And Christmas turns to chaos instead of celebration.
The sacred becomes stressful.
The wonder leaves me worn out.
And I’m left on Christmas morning with a heart as empty as all the open boxes under the tree.
What about you, friends? Do you find yourself each holiday season trying to relive the glories of Christmases past? Are you searching for the joy and wonder you used to know?
Do you find yourself missing this Christmas because you’re so busy missing past Christmases?
C.S. Lewis has some insight into this phenomenon. In “The Weight of Glory,” he says this about our nostalgia: “These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.”
Those things we enjoy at Christmastime—our events, our traditions, our gift-giving—they are good things that ought to point us to what we really desire: the drawing near of God, the birth of the King, the coming of hope, Emmanuel—God with us.
But if we pursue them for their own sake—or because we hope they will bestow some long-lost, unattainable happiness—then we will be disappointed every time.
And we will leave the Christmas season with hearts of stone instead of hearts of light.
So this year, as the holiday season draws to a close, let’s determine not to measure our Christmas by our to-do lists. Maybe there are movies you never watched, CDs you never listened to, presents you didn’t get, cookies you didn’t have time to bake, or traditions you didn’t celebrate this year.
And that’s okay.
Because Christmas is a season of fresh wonder, new hope, and unfailing love. There is always new grace for you. Always.
So do not let your heart be troubled if your Christmas didn’t live up to expectations.
Christmas was never about a day, anyway.
It’s about a Deity who came into a dark world to rescue His people for all eternity.
If you must look back into the past, look back to that first Christmas.
Look back and marvel.
He came for you, friend. He came for you.
And that is more than gift enough.
Merry Christmas, friend. May your heart be merry and light, this season and always!