Loving warmth of God: redefining expectations of the holidays
In this busy season, most of us have had that moment where we feel that there is something else we should be doing, but we just can’t fit it all in. This time of year brings so many expectations and sometimes we try to do it all. It’s at this point that we have to define what is most important in our lives.
The other day, I was talking to a neighbor who told that the person who lived in my house before me went all out with wonderful Christmas lights and decorations. Immediately, I felt like I was letting the neighborhood down because I’m not very good at putting up Christmas lights, so I haven’t done any outdoor decorating. Then, there was a special Christmas breakfast where I brought store bought cookies instead of making the homemade Christmas tree shaped cookies that Martha Stewart made on the Today show. This would be a good time to mention that I have yet to purchase the first Christmas gift this year or mail my first Christmas card.
In year’s past I might feel that I don’t have the “Christmas spirit” because I haven’t done all of the things that we normally think of as festive activities that mark the celebrations of Christmas. But, this year, maybe we can all redefine our priorities and realize that these are not the most important activities. While I haven’t made the time for shopping, baking and decorating, I have had time to immerse myself in a daily advent study and have spent more time reading scripture and connecting to God in prayer. I have had time to be with people and give them my unstressed and undivided attention. I have had time and resources to give to the local charities that do such meaningful work in our community.
It’s nothing new for people to have different expectations as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Before Jesus was born, people were waiting for a Messiah. Many were living in situations of injustice and darkness. Their only hope was the promised coming of the Savior of the world. While they expected someone who would be a powerful military leader who would conquer the current leaders by force, Jesus ushered in this era of peace and love in a way that was very different from what people expected. He taught by example what it looks like to love through self-giving and that being his disciple means following him in serving instead of expecting to be served. He showed us that doing the will of the Father is more important than doing what we want, but that in that obedience to God we find our ultimate fulfillment.
The joy that we celebrate this Christmas comes from finding our true, authentic identity in God, and connecting in love with all of God’s children. It inspires us to recommit ourselves to a more faithful walk in growing closer to God.
Maybe over the next few weeks I’ll have a chance to bake those Martha Stewart cookies, put up a dazzling light display, and buy some thoughtful gifts for the people I love, but I know that the true Christmas spirit doesn’t come from any of these things. It comes from a heart filled with God’s love. My Christmas wish is that you will all experience the warmth of God’s love this season.