Today is December 25th – Christmas – and though I am all of five days past the official fourth Sunday in the Advent season, I just couldn’t bring myself to not close the circle with some thoughts on Love….
I’ve been thinking for days about love – about God’s love for us, about our response to that love, about how it impacts our love for one another ….on and on and on….so many thoughts! But these have also been some of the most difficult days I’ve had in a long time, and thoughts are slippery critters just now. I’ll catch a good one, and before I know it, thinking’s nemesis, big emotion swoops in, makes me feel very big feelings, and suddenly the thought I was thinking has vanished and I find myself back at the “drawing board”, wondering where all the good thoughts have gone! So, if you’re adventurous enough to hang in there with me for what may be a bit of a mental / emotional roller coaster ride, strap yourself in, and let’s see where we end up. =)
Christmas is such a special time of year – more than any other holiday, we prepare for this one day weeks, sometimes months in advance. We decorate – we shop – we cook – we connect with one another in ways that we just don’t make time for during the other 364 days in the year. I love Christmas! One of my very favorite things about this day has been the sheer freedom it brings. It’s always been the ultimate family day where we get to lavish one another with gifts (even if the extravagance is more sentimental than monetary), and for one day…..everything else seems to pause and give us permission to just enjoy our families, our homes, our friends and to fully experience….love.
This year, as we still haltingly attempt to maneuver these special holidays that bring the now familiar mixture of joy and sorrow, I couldn’t help but wonder what Heaven sees and thinks of our attempts at celebrating the birth of Jesus. We sing “Joy to the Word” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” while at the same time, so many people are just hanging on, desperately trying to find joy somewhere in their sorrow-filled hearts. And after some thinking (and lots of feeling…..remember the roller coaster we’re on!) this is what I’ve concluded for this Christmas, anyway…..
It’s all wrapped up in love….
The joy – the sorrow – the gifting – the remembrances – the pain – the laughter – the disappointment – the family traditions…..all of it – all of US – wrapped up in love.
I’ve seen it for myself. I saw it in the stranger who inadvertently cut me off in the Starbuck’s line, then paid for my coffee ahead of me. I saw it in the children who carefully and lovingly placed each piece of the nativity set in place throughout the Christmas Eve service. I saw it in the pastor who put aside his own grief to bring joy to the precious people he serves. I saw it in every possible way across social media as people shared joyful family photos, as well as their struggles with celebrating just now….and as I ask myself what Heaven sees, I know before the question even fully forms in my mind; Heaven sees love.
The same Jesus whose birth we pause to celebrate today didn’t just come so we could have an annual birthday bash in his honor! He came to save us from all that separates us from him, and he SO gets how hard a place this world can be. He knows well the sting of death and separation. He gets how lonely one can feel, even when trusting fully in God. And he isn’t afraid of the hard questions, because his love for us isn’t based on our love for him – it never has been and it never will be. His love is without conditions and without reserve, and just when we think we might find the depth of it, it plunges deeper still in mysteries that can’t be unraveled this side of eternity.
I love Christmas, and I think I’ve stumbled on one more reason why….it’s because He came for me. Not just because “God so loved the world…”, but because He loves…..me. Not the perfectly together, full of faith, always praying daughter of God that I so try to be, but the real me; the one who tries but so often fails, the one who struggles to understand what “the plan” is, the one whose faith is sometimes on the roller coaster along with intellect and emotion (it’s getting crowded on this ride!) but also the one who is clinging desperately to the savior whose love sent him to rescue her in the first place.
Today is Christmas, and it’s been a day spent with those I love most in the world. It’s been a day filled with love, and you know what? Even when the trees are down and the lights put away, long after the Christmas songs cease to fill the air and the last of the leftovers devoured…what remains of Christmas – the best part – is the love.
Peace and love to you, my roller coaster companions. The holiday will soon be behind us, but remember to take all of the love….every ounce of it, and carry it deep inside where the cares of the world can’t reach it. Jesus loves us…..just take that in for a moment….the Savior of the World….deeply, perfectly, passionately, intimately….loves you; loves me.
I don’t know about you, but I needed to remember this tonight. My attempt at offering Advent reflections may have been a bit messy this year, but it seems most fitting that we close the circle here with love. =)
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39 (NIV)
Merry Christmas, Shellie!
Cathy Benson (Amy’s Mom from BNSF)
Thank you, Cathy – to you and yours as well. =)
Wonderfully said dear friend.