Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. James 1:13
What puts you in the Christmas mood? What can make a soul merry and a countenance cheerful? For some, seeing the twinkling lights against a dark skyline usher in the beginning of the season. Others may rock around the Christmas tree, hearts glowing brighter with each careful placement of an ornament.
What does it for you? Is it the Christmas baking or a roaring fire (when the weather’s cold enough)? Or is it when Christmas cartoons make the scene? Do the Christmas songs you hear bring a pep to your step? For in stores and in cars and in homes we hear all about the joys of Christmas, but…
Does the joy really penetrate our exteriors?
Tis the season to be jolly and chestnuts roasting on an open fire may be coming out of our mouths, and the halls may be decked out with boughs of holly, and silver bells may be ringing in our ears, but what really lies within our hearts?
That’s the question I ask myself today.
This morning, I can honestly say Christmas has not reached my heart. And in truth, I don’t know that it ever has. See, in yester years, I’ve always felt a bit gloomy by the time Christmas rolls around. Because there is always great build up and excitement of what will come but then, Christmas is over in a flash.
The opening of presents has always been anticlimactic in that they cannot fill the emptiness inside. Gifts, no matter how wonderful, can fill a hollow heart. And so in days of yore, I would inevitably find myself sitting on the floor gazing at a mess. As the tissue paper and boxes and too many gifts piled higher and higher, I would think, “There has to be more to it than this.”
That’s why this year, I really want Christmas to be different. For once in my life, I want for all the clichés I hear to be real. I will not again proclaim, “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Keep Christ in Christmas” unless I can say it in all sincerity. Because in years past, I haven’t done so.
No, in the hustle and bustle, I’ve always forgotten the real reason. And past behavior proves I did not keep Christ in Christmas.
And so, He becomes my goal this year. Jesus. More than anything, I want to focus on the true reason for the season and put Christ back in. For amidst all the activity, He all to often gets left out.
But this year will be different. For I hope to give my family the best gift I can offer. Yep, this is the year I hope to cultivate a Christmas heart. And my prayer is that my Christmas heart will last beyond the lights and the trimmings and the trappings. For years to come…
Unfortunately, I didn’t get off to a good start. See, Monday evening was not a good night in our household. Coming off the heels of a busy weekend (traveling for Thanksgiving), I thought it would be a good idea to put up a tree and do some decorating after a long day. And so, after leaving a dinner mess upon my kitchen countertop, I made an even bigger mess in my living room. I brought up box after box of ornaments and began my task.
My hopes were high as the right music played in the background. However, as evening turned to darkest of night, I found myself feeling less than joyful. And quite frankly, my patience wore thin.
For there were lights and ornaments and stockings strewn about, and the kitchen was a disaster. It was past my son’s bedtime, but no matter… the Christmas tree had to be completed. Because once I begin something, I have to finish. It’s one of my flaws.
And so, as my son’s interest began to wane and toys became his focus, I snapped at him. “BEDTIME!” I hurried him off to bed and when he asked for a story, I said impatiently, “No, you cannot have a story, it’s past your bedtime! I let you stay up to help with the tree, but you didn’t want to!” My tone oh so ugly. And then with an action that didn’t match my demeanor, I kissed his forehead and scurried off in a flash.
My sighs were heavy as I set out to finish my agenda. And much later, when last ornament was hung and the messes were shoved into corners, I had time to reflect on the evening. That’s when regret came knocking, for I was utterly sorrowful at the way the night turned out. My regret ran much deeper than the Christmas tree…
It was about the way I treated my son and the memories he will carry with him. Would he reminisce fondly about our Christmas times together? I think not.
Instead, my son will remember a mother who was frustrated with tangled lights, who repositioned his ornaments because of spacing issues, and was more concerned about spending time with a dead tree than about spending time with him. He’ll remember a mother who showed more concern over three broken ornaments than she did over his own broken heart.
And so, as I stood there thinking about three broken ornaments, I thought they were fitting. The first was a baby blue bootie, purchased in honor of my son. The second was a cross that broke in two as it hit the floor. And the last was a delicate angel, its wings roughly pulled loose. All broken. Like us. My son and me…
Monday night, three hearts broke alongside three broken ornaments. My son’s as he lay in bed, mine when I had time to think, and God’s. Oh, how His heart must have broken at the sight of a mother much too hurried to care about the weightier issues. Mercy and love. For I had forgotten the entire reason I was decorating that tree.
And as the reality of the evening set in, I found myself as broken as the cross I threw in the trash. And so, I lay down with my son weary with exhaustion. I clung to him, hoping somehow he’d feel my love through his slumber. And as I drifted off to sleep, my heart was as heavy as the boughs laden with ornaments. Monday night, a Christmas heart eluded me.
Yes, it’s true. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas inside my home. There are trees, and lights, and nativity scenes, and a gingerbread house. And my insides have been somewhat better the past two evenings as I’m trying to remember…
…the reason for the season.
See, deep down, I know it’s not about tangled lights and musings on what an awful mother I am compared to the ones I see in picture perfect scenes on Facebook. I know it’s more than losing the internet connection while uploading photos to a website for calendars. It’s deeper than straightening the gifts the kitties have knocked about for the umpteenth time through their playful antics.
It’s more, so much more, than what lie on the surface. And so this year, I pray it will be different. This year, I hope to find what I’ve been looking for. More than anything, I want it all to be real. Every bit of it. I want to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and mean it with my whole heart.
And as for my son, I want to lavish him with love. So that’s where I’ll start, for a Christmas heart begins with love.
You know… up till now I’ve always found Christmas to be a bit of a let down. Oh, you’d see a merry countenance and a song on my lips. But that was all surface. And deep down, I felt hollow. But now I know why…
I overlooked God’s gift to me though He’d been offering it all along. So distracted was I, I never saw His gift of love. His reason for the season. But truth is, it’s always been there. His gift was always there for the taking and it always will be.
Christmas and every day.
So in reality, the only gift that matters this season is a Christmas heart. Cultivating one that bursts with love. And that’s His gift to us. A present ready to be opened.
I’m looking for mine now. That Christmas heart…
Have you found yours?