I used to love Christmas. I mean, LOVE Christmas. Throughout the year, I looked forward to two things… Christmas and a beach vacation. If I counted the number of thoughts I had toward those two things, it would probably number in the thousands…maybe even millions.
When the Christmas season would arrive, I would throw myself into it…shopping, decorating, baking, events (the more Christmas parties, the better)… all of this would become my December world and I loved it. Until December 26th, that is…the day after Christmas was one of the most depressing days of the year…presents opened, mess made, food stale, decorations no longer valid. Somehow the hype, the expectations, the planning that led up to one day, left a hole bigger than a whole new year could fill. Next Christmas…next Christmas will be perfect.
Something changed, however. The “something” had to do with this little baby that I claimed to celebrate while making my wishlist and imagining my perfect Christmas gatherings. Never before had a baby been born for a greater purpose… and that purpose was not to get comfortable and be happy. He came to die for a lost and dying world. He came to turn us upside down and shake out all of our pride and obstinacy and plans for the future. He came to make everything else grow strangely dim.
Almost 3 years ago, right after Christmas, David and I took first steps to follow Jesus into a world that we had only read about. We began the great adventure of adoption. We were sitting around living the American dream, right up to the 2.5 kids (Nathan has always been a kid and a half :), but we had hit a wall with the Lord. It was like we couldn’t come any closer. Finally we said “yes, Lord! Turn our lives upside down. Take our family and use it for your glory. We are tired of “life as usual”. We want to be ALL that you created us to be.” And we brought home Kate…and then we brought home Jessica and Naomi… and somewhere in the midst of a changing life and a transitioning family, Christmas was put in its place.
This year, Christmas looked a lot different. Yes, there were still expectations and decorations and celebrations, but it was in perspective. Redemption changes things and once you have watched with your own eyes while He redeems…how He redeems…His intimate involvement in redemption…holiday traditions almost become a distraction. I mean, as hard as I try, I have less time with the Lord while I am supposedly celebrating Him, than I do all year. Our relationship actually suffers while I am trying to remember all the people I need to give a gift to, while I am trying to put up all the decorations that I pull out of my attic, while I am filling the calendar with events to attend.
This year, my favorite part about Christmas was that it was low key. Being so shortly home from China, we had an excuse. We attended very few holiday events. We stayed home. We were able to have bilingual Chinese guests who we quickly fell in love with. We enjoyed our decorations and fires in the fireplace and some Hallmark movies. We enjoyed fellowship with neighbors and watching as our new daughters opened presents and played with new toys. Even so, I have discovered that the joy of this season does not come from a perfect Christmas tree or kisses under the mistletoe, or lights all aglow. It comes from a Savior who was just getting started on the day He was born. The best was yet to come, but the best was a hard road to the cross so that I could one day take up my own. Carrying your cross means you see the world through a different lens…and sometimes that lens means you enjoy certain things less than you did before you put on “God glasses”.
The day after Christmas, I sit here knowing that I will never be the same. Christmas will never hold the same temporary thrill that it once did. That thrill is gone and the traditions seem rather like going through the motions. I want my children to live for more than just some temporary highs on Christmas day. I want them to live for the God who changes lives. I don’t want them to spend the day after Christmas wishing that they didn’t have to wait a whole year for it to come again. I want them to spend it anticipating the adventure that God has for them in the coming year. I hope with every Christmas that passes, they will almost look forward to December 26th when once again there is peace on earth :).
So yes, I will forever cherish the moments that we were blessed with this Christmas, but I will also rejoice that when everything is over and the last decoration is put away, it only means that it is time to get back to it. There are people to see come to Christ and things to do for our calling.
If you are hearing “Bah Humbug” from me, please listen closely. Peace on earth. Goodwill to men! Christmas has come and gone again, but the Savior is calling. Hear Him. Follow Him. Live for Him. Because every day has the potential to celebrate Christ.