As we move towards Christmas, this year feels different.
Normally I’m full speed ahead in the Christmas spirit, but it’s like I don’t want to leave the posture of November’s focus in gratitude. Even as I move to decorate the tree and blare the Carpenters Christmas album when I go Christmas shopping, my heart is reluctant to let go of Thanksgiving. I suppose that was the point of the gratitude giving challenge.
Maybe this has always been a natural thing for you- to maintain an attitude of thanks year ’round. For me it’s new, it’s foreign, and it changes everything. Because if I’m being truthful, moving towards the holidays can be hard.
Why is it that the holidays can simultaneously lift your emotions and crush them?
December brings so many opportunities for joy and time together with loved ones. Our expectations are that it should be the happiest time of the year. We don’t really talk about it being anything different. But yet I seem to battle emptiness and melancholy most deeply right around the holidays. I don’t think I’m alone in this either.
The holidays magnify the picture of how we think life should be, and in turn just shows how broken our lives really are.
…Instead of one big happy family, we battle hurt in relationships, unforgiving hearts, bitterness, and long-standing feuds.
…The gifts that we wish we could give remind us that bills are stacking up already, and suddenly the joy of giving is lost in the hopelessness of debt.
..Sickness and health issues remind us that our bodies are frail and put a damper on the carefree laughter that we want to share.
…Then there are the loved ones who have passed that we desperately and deeply miss, most especially as we gather together for Christmas dinner.
…and even when Christmas turns out to be simply beautiful and wonderful and happy, those moments never last quite long enough and the mundane of everyday life begins again too quickly.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.“
When we abandon all expectations and simply take each moment, even the hard ones, and choose thanks in Christ, healing begins.
I love Ann Voskamp’s words about that passage in Habakkuk:
“Rejoicing in the Lord happens while we still struggle in the now. Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other. Struggling can deepen joy… (And) the secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father.
A song of thanks steadies everything.
So as we move towards Christmas, let’s not try to mask hurts with false cheer, but vulnerably choose gratitude, even in the messes of our lives. It’s the hard, brave, thing to sing gratitude loud when your voice is wavering under the crush of heartache. He is making all things new.
“He shattered the space between heaven and earth and came naked and breakable for you in a crèche. Then he lay naked and broken for you on a cross. If He gave you His Son to save you, will he not give anything? …Though the fig tree does not blossom, his love always does.” -Ann Voskamp
P.S. Quotes are from The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas By Ann Voskamp. I highly recommend this advent devotional!