They’re in full swing on the radio now. Some stations grab on to the sounds of the season more than others, but most at least intermittently play Christmas music from now until…well, forever, it seems like.
It’s kind of nice at first, but I – for one – am ready for regular programming by the time the presents are unwrapped and the tree is looking worse for wear. Some can listen to them year round, but I’m not one of them. Part of what begins to grate on me by the end of the season are, ironically, the songs that so joyously announce the utter perfection of this time of year.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
with the kids jingle-belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all…
If I’m honest, a lot of the time when those songs come on the radio, I change the station to something else. Because if I’m honest, a lot of the time when those songs come on the radio I just don’t want to hear it. Because if I’m honest, a lot of the time I’m just really not feeling so joyous and merry and bright.
My own struggles with depression and anxiety can hit a fever pitch in the chaos and celebration of Christmas. Between the hustle and bustle and the endless to-do lists and the bittersweet memories of Christmases past and the sneaking suspicion that I’m simultaneously giving my daughter too many gifts and somehow also not giving her enough, my emotions can run the gambit within a two-minute period. (And Christmas commercials? Come on, now!)
And even though my own roller-coaster emotions are to blame for my occasional Scrooginess (that’s a word, yes?), it’s my awareness of larger things happening in the world around me that leaves the joyous carols falling on sensitive ears.
I know of many families within my circle of friends and acquaintances who are celebrating their first Christmas season without loved ones they lost this past year. My own family could be among them next year, as my sweet aunt’s health is failing in hospice care. A family in our church has taken in two foster children, and while it’s such a beautiful thing to witness, I can’t help but think of the broken family celebrating Christmas apart from one another. An online friend is praying fervently for the life of her baby nephew to be spared as he fights for his life against a cruel disease. Another friend from church is suffering deeply under the weight of anxiety and depression, and another friend is facing severe financial crisis that threatens everything to which her family has become accustomed.
Illnesses….joblessness….homelessness…..loneliness……the list goes on and on of things that make this a tougher-than-normal season for so many.
So when I hear the cheery music coming over the radio, a part of me wants to sing along while another part of me shakes my head and thinks, “Really? The most wonderful time of the year? Is it really?”
But this morning I thought of a verse I read recently:
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15)
Did you catch it? This High Priest of ours? He understands.
I really thought about that verse as I drove around on errands the other day, and sitting at a red light at a busy intersection, I remembered why this IS the most wonderful time of the year.
Yes, it’s because of the joyous songs and the magical twinkling lights and the fantastic traditions, but it’s because of the incredible thing that happened to spark those things in the first place.
God – the Creator of the Universe – came to live among us as a helpless baby. He did that so that He would grow up as we do, struggling as we do. He did that so that He would fully understand the experience of a man – a woman – living in this broken world. He loved people deeply and lost them. He trusted people and was betrayed. He faced hunger and sadness and exhaustion and burnout. He faced situations that challenged every ounce of his humanity, though it shared flesh with deity. He faced the things we face and was even tempted as we are tempted to choose the ways of the world. His feet walked the dusty roads of Israel so He would know what it’s like to walk the roads we walk.
Since we have a High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. (Hebrews 4:14)
What do we believe? We believe, first, that the baby Jesus was the human embodiment of God, the Creator. But we also believe that the tiny baby grew up and was crucified to pave the way for us to enter heaven. And further, we believe that He rose again to life to make eternal life possible for us. So yes, we celebrate the birth of that baby, but we celebrate everything that He did that made it possible not only for Him to understand where we are, but for us to one day be able to understand where He is.
So if you feel a little like Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year, know this: the One whose birth we celebrate? He understands. He knows. He gets it. He understands what you’re going through, and this season is about celebrating what He did to make that understanding possible.
He came…and He will come again.
When that day comes, we’ll see the full picture and will understand things we can only imagine now. When that day comes, the wonder of this season will pale in comparison to the wonder of our eternity. He fully understands, and one day, we will, too.