Why We Need Christmas

The day after Thanksgiving, our family got out our Christmas decorations, put up the tree, hung our stockings, and even set up lights in front of our house. It’s officially the Christmas season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time!

We were certainly not the first to dig out our Christmas tubs and boxes. This year, people were stringing lights and trimming their trees earlier than ever. 2020 has been a lump of coal, to say it politely, and across the board people have been long anticipating the holiday season. 

This yearning is not just for children excited to open presents on Christmas morning. It’s us, as adults. We need Christmas this year. 

Why is there more attention, focus and enthusiasm for Christmas than usual? Why does it seem we desperately need Christmas to come, the sooner the better?

Collectively, for almost all of us, this year has, well, been a year. It’s a year we’d like to escape, to sucker punch and kick to the curb. It’s been hard, and for some devastating. People have lost opportunities, lost jobs, lost loved ones, lost their sanity in quarantine, lost safety, lost elections, lost peace, lost joy. We’ve lost. With no end in sight, and no light at the end of the tunnel, we feel lost.

And so when the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree glow, and outdoor displays shine bright in the dark (at 5 p.m. – thanks to time change), we feel a flicker of hope that all is not lost.

Christmas is about remembering what was and believing in what could be again. 

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is putting up our Christmas tree. My husband puts the tree together, and then I string the lights and garland. Next, we decorate the tree with ribbons carefully saved from our holiday wedding. Finally, the kids hang all of our ornaments, spanning decades of memories. It’s certainly not a professional job, and not one you’d ever see in a store display, but it’s ours. 

Our Christmas tree holds so many years of special moments and stories, smiles and laughter. It reminds us of the joy and blessings God has given us.

For instance, my favorite ornament on our tree is a construction paper stocking, stitched with yarn by small fingers, and half of the sequins are now missing. On the back is my son’s name, proudly written by a little boy after working on this special project together. It’s trash to most, but one I will always keep and prominently display.

My favorite ornament

There are so many ornaments lovingly made in school classrooms by my children (and their thoughtful teachers), that capture moments and precious faces I don’t want to forget.

Precious faces and memories on the tree

Both my husband and I have ornaments commemorating our first Christmases from our parents, and others from our childhood. And we have special ornaments that we’ve picked out together for our tree.

Each year, when we have the opportunity, my husband and I pick out a special Nativity Christmas ornament.

Our Christmas tree reminds us what’s most important. It’s the One who has shaped our Christmas memories and who holds all our future Christmases.

People long for Christmas, because deep down, even if they don’t understand it, they ache for a Savior. They want someone to save the day – to change what the world has become.

We need peace in the midst of this pandemic. We need joy instead of the constant jockeying for position. We need faith to come against fear and fighting. We need hope to heal the hurting. 

We need Christmas. We need Christ.

Jesus is peace. Jesus is joy. Jesus is the reason for our faith, and the source of our hope.

Christmas not only reminds us of what’s most important, it gives us a glimpse of what could be and should be when we seek the Savior of the World. Only Jesus can restore what we’ve lost. 

He was the One who left the perfection of Heaven to step into our mess. He lived a life without corruption, selfishness and sin. And, because we couldn’t do it on our own, He gave His life to save ours. He gave us hope and life, and that resurrection is available to us, even today.

So, bring on the Christmas carols, mugs of hot chocolate, nativity scenes and candles flickering in the windows. Light up those obnoxious Christmas displays and cover couches with Christmas pillows and blankets. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and snuggle together with only the glow of the Christmas tree lights in the room. Christmas is here – and we have reason to celebrate! 

The Light of the World has come! Look for Him this Christmas.

Packing up Christmas

The ornaments and Christmas crafts and decorations piled up as I worked to pack it all up.

The ornaments and Christmas crafts and decorations piled up as I worked to put it all away.

On New Year’s Day, I was ready to take down the Christmas tree and pack up the decorations.

For the last several years, I’ve struggled with the after-Christmas letdown. I didn’t want to take down all the special ornaments and lovingly pieced together Christmas crafts the kids made at home and school! The Nativity scene looked so beautiful on my piano, and I loved my mornings curled up on the couch in the dark before the kids woke up, gazing at the lights on the tree. Christmas is my favorite time of year, and it always seems so stark and empty when it all is packed up in a box and stacked up in the garage.

This time around, as I surveyed the house full of Christmas on the first day of 2015, I knew it was time. Without remorse or even a tug at my heart, it all came down to be carefully packed away for next year.

My husband commented out loud that he wondered where his wife had gone! The one that usually waxes sentimental was now on a mission to clean up and move on.

This was a wonderful December, full of family time and precious memories. We participated in an exciting Journey to the Manger every day as we anticipated Jesus’s birthday on Christmas. We attended school programs, dance recitals, church musicals, and even managed to deal with a few bouts of sickness in the midst of it all. We had an amazing day with my extended family at Silver Dollar City, and enjoyed an after-Christmas trip to spend time with my husband’s family. Christmas Day itself was full of joy and wonderful time together!

So why didn’t I feel the same way this year that I usually do when all the festivities and Christmas celebrations come to an end?

Mangers aren’t meant to linger around.

Mary didn’t give birth to her firstborn son in a stable and lay Jesus in a manger because she wanted to…she had to because there was no other place or people who would make room for them. The young couple didn’t stay there long either. They dedicated Jesus in the Temple, and ended up living in a home in Bethlehem. It is there that the Wise Men found Mary and the child and worshiped Him with expensive gifts. After their visit, an angel visited Joseph with instructions to leave Bethlehem immediately for Egypt, sparing Jesus from King Herod’s rage.

Jesus didn’t come to stay cradled in the manger. He came to shake the earth and our hearts when he paid the penalty for our sins on the cross and burst forth from the grave!

Mary and Joseph left the manger, not knowing what awaited them as they held the Son of God in their arms. They would go to Egypt and back, and watch their Son grow in favor with God and men. Mary would see Jesus’s miracles, and the crowds clamoring for a touch and a word from the Savior. They had to move on from the manger to experience the adventure of life with Jesus!

I don’t know what God has in store for me or my family this year. I haven’t written out carefully constructed resolutions or goals, and frankly am not sure what we will eat for dinner tonight. But I know that my best days are ahead of me, as I follow my Jesus!

That’s why I was ready to pack up the decorations, and carry Christmas with me in my heart. My feet are ready to move and my hands are ready to get to work. It’s time to continue this life’s adventure with Jesus!