Merry Christmas: preparing our hearts for the gift that remains all year long

Advent; Christmas; Christmas Eve; Hope; Peace; Joy; Love

It’s Christmas Eve. Finally.

It’s been building, slowly and steadily gaining steam, like a freight train chugging its way up a hill. (Ever since I saw those decorations being set up at IKEA in SEPTEMBER!)

And then it crests and begins the speeding, racing, careening downward spiral (Sales flyers that begin in October, the Black Friday, post-American Thanksgiving retail race) to the finish line.

Even the Advent nudge to slow down threatens to add one last straw to the already precarious bit of sanity we have left. If you’ve bought into the world’s Christmas, you know what that feels like.

But here we are. The last Sunday of Advent.

Take a deep breath.

When people ask me if I’m ready for Christmas, I tell them, “Christmas will come whether I’m ready or not.”

Of course, in my head, I’m still going through lists and checking them twice—that’s all part of learning to hold my reins loosely. Clearly, it’s an ongoing lesson.

But on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, those things all fall away. And the only thing that does matter is whether my heart is ready. Suddenly, Christmas seems simple, doesn’t it?

Because whether or not you’ve bought all the presents or baked all the things, or crammed every last moment of your day with embracing all the lights and experiences that fill our calendars this time of year, Jesus still comes.

The wait is over.

Once you stop rushing, once you take away all the fuss and the wrapping and the trimmings, what are you left with on Christmas Day?

Our Christmas is characterized by family. Both my husband’s family and mine are here. Close by. With the exception of a few nieces and nephews out of town, we gather to celebrate. We’re not perfect, but our petty differences and dysfunctions take a back seat for the day and we count our blessings together.

But I know for many people, Christmas emphasizes everything that’s wrong with our families.

  • For some, there is no family close by or they can’t afford to travel and Christmas is characterized by loneliness.
  • For some, the dysfunction runs deep and Christmas is characterized by conflict.
  • For some, the dark days and long, cold nights are oppressive and Christmas is characterized by depression. They hide in the shadows, still waiting. Waiting for it to be over.
  • And for some, once all the frantic rushing and preparing is done, there’s nothing left. No energy or emotion left to enjoy the fruits of your labours. And Christmas is characterized by exhaustion and resentment.

But in that stable, 2000 years ago, came Hope.

Jesus’ life began with a dysfunctional family. An unwed mother. A reluctant father. Uprooted from their home. No place to call their own, as she went into labour. A stable with all its animals and smells. No crib in sight, only a manger.

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
~Luke 2:4-7

In that stable, 2000 years ago, came the promise of Joy.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
~Luke 2:10-12

In that stable, 2000 years ago, came the promise of Peace.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
~Luke 2:13-14

And in that stable, 2000 years ago, came the most extravagant display of Love the world has seen. God had promised a saviour for his people and he delivered. Literally.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
~Luke 2:19-20

Though we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, this gift remains all year long.

Once we put away all the baubles and ornaments, and the baking and turkey leftovers and visiting family are long gone what are you left with?

I love the way writer Shannan Martin puts it,

“I want to allow myself the pleasure of the party while remembering that isn’t supposed to be a one-season vibe. It’s PRACTICE for the other 11 months of the year. We deck the halls and do the things, but when we look around, we see reminders of truth, hope, peace, and joy. We see a baby that saved us and a world that needs us near.”

We live in a world that needs us near. A world that needs a little hope. A world that needs some peace. And we live in the midst of people who long for joy.

So, today, as you stop and take a deep breath and settle into the day, remember this in the midst of whatever characterizes Christmas for you.

Really, all you need to prepare is your heart.

Merry Christmas.

If you’ve enjoyed this little musing, it would mean the world to me if you subscribe to receive future blog posts. (Scroll down to the bottom of my Home page to where it says “Subscribe.”)

I’m doing my best at navigating the twists and turns of this life with faith, hope and humour. I’d be so honoured to share the journey with you. Putting one foot in front of the other, and—hopefully—not in my mouth. (I’m not sure you fully appreciate how difficult this is for me.)

Based on my previous track record, I don’t promise that my posts will be consistent, or inconsistent, but I’ll try for amusing. At the very least, I hope you’ll come away feeling a little better about yourself.

Thanks for visiting!


4 thoughts on “Merry Christmas: preparing our hearts for the gift that remains all year long

  1. Hi Janine!

    Happy to see, you are back to writing. Maybe you never stopped.

    You have a way of saying what’s on our minds, plus a whole lot more. Placing our worldly worries back into perspective and bringing humour to our circumstances. Thanks for sharing your gift. Whatever it brings will be good and it will speak to whoever the Lord meant it for.

    Your sister in Christ.

    1. Thanks for your very kind words Velma! They mean so much to me. It’s so nice to hear from you! Hope you’re doing well and country life is still agreeing with you. J.

  2. What a sweetie you are. I think you and I would be great friends. My cousin is Maureen Kehler (who I adore, and you probably do too!!) and it’s was her share that lead me to your blog. Thank you for writing this beautiful reflection. I look forward to more posts. My blog is called “whispering soul streams.” And I think you’d Enjoy it. (Though I it’s been a strangely silent year —that vulnerability thing!!) but I look forward to writing again soon. So glad to tumble across your words and hearts. Happy New Year.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I LOVE your Instagram feed, so if it’s a taste of your heart and words, I know I’ll love the blog too. I also know ALL TOO WELL that vulnerability thing: It has kept me silent for many years. When the time is right, I know God will nudge you to simply begin again. (‘Cause He does that sort of thing.)Looking forward to what 2018 holds for your hopes and dreams in this regard. Hugs, J.

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