When Christmas is Said and Done

I hope that you had the merriest of Christmases!  We visited family on both sides, exchanged gifts, ate significantly more than we ought to have eaten, and had a beautiful day.  By evening, everyone was exhausted.  (I'd blame this on my oldest daughter who set her alarm for 5 A.M. to make sure we started Christmas on time, but that wouldn't be the whole truth.  Perhaps 93% of the truth, but not the whole truth.  Christmas is tiring, no matter how you slice it.)

A lot of emotion goes into Christmas each year.  Everyone has expectations, whether for an anticipated gift, or how others will receive a gift, or how the meal will turn out, or how extended family will get along. For some, this Christmas might be the first one they've spent without a loved one, and their ache is as deep as others' cheer.  Some will have put intense energy into planning and preparation, only to feel empty by how quickly the torn wrapping paper was gathered and thrown away.  Kids are strung out on sugar and glazed over with anticipation -- and often more prone to melting down.

It can be an absolutely beautiful time, but it's also a lot to process.

That's why I like to pull back each Christmas season to be quiet and reflect.  Sometimes we make the holidays more complicated than they need to be.  At Christmas Eve service, my pastor said, "Remember, there's nothing that you can do to make Jesus love you more or less.  His love for you isn't based on your performance; it's based on His nature."

I know this in my core, yet I need to hear it spoken sometimes.  When I'm good, my goodness doesn't earn me God's favor.  When I'm selfish and bristly and cranky (say, like when I get woken at 5 A.M.), my bad behavior doesn't undo God's unconditional acceptance of me.  My right-standing with God is because of Jesus, plain and simple.

That's what we celebrate Christmas.  Emmanuel, God with us, came to earth to make us right with Him.

So, now that Christmas officially has passed, we'll assimilate the new gifts into our homes, take down our trees, unstring the lights, stow away the wrapping paper, say goodbye to family until the next time we gather, return the sweater that didn't fit, and detox from our Christmas diets as we head into the new year.  We'll do all of it, like we do each year, because another Christmas is said and done.

But the reason why we celebrate in the first place?

Hark the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled

Yes, even though the day passes, the reason that we celebrate lives on.  Even if you've had a Christmas that fell short of some expectation, we can take comfort.  The reason for Christmas -- God himself, whose love is unconditional -- never disappoints.

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