Getting Ready for Christmas

A few years ago, I read about a church holding a “Blue Christmas” service. Taking place sometime in mid-December, the service was offered to those who were grieving or hurting or otherwise feeling a disconnect with the “festive season”.

More and more, I think it’s a good idea. I love Christmas, but it can also be a painful time of year for so many people and so many reasons. This will be a hard Christmas for a lot of people. Even just in my own circle, there are people who have lost loved ones this year, have health struggles, have lost jobs, have been hit by fire or flood, or by the break-up of their marriage or worry for their kids and grandkids, by alienation from family or friends. The list goes on. I have lots to be thankful for, but there are ways, too, in which I’ve been feeling broken lately.

This is the time of year that we tend to focus on “getting ready for Christmas”. But this year, I headed into what’s usually my favorite time of year feeling like I’d like to just skip Christmas. My Type A side couldn’t bring myself to let it go, so I forged grimly forward. I was only going through the motions, though. Inside, I was grieving. Feeling empty.

One afternoon, I was wrapping a few gifts I’d bought without the usual Christmas music or movie playing in the background because I just wanted to get the job done and over with. It was just quiet. But into the quiet, after a while it felt like God was saying, “Don’t focus on what you ‘need’ to do to get ready for Christmas. Think about what I did to get ready for Christmas.”

That’s something I’ve never really stopped to think about before. Usually, I’m so focused on my to-do lists – what to buy, what to bake, who to send cards or letters to, who to visit. But what can seem so important and overwhelming in the mid-December rush is nothing compared with what God did to get ready for that first Christmas. To get Christmas ready for Jesus to arrive. For us.

It began with a promise way back when humankind first told God that we could manage just fine on our own terms; when God turned us loose to find out what that would really be like, but set in motion a plan to make a way for us to come back into a right relationship with him again. God’s preparations for that first Christmas included choosing a family – which became a nation – to be a living story of what it means to be the children of a loving and holy God. The giving of the Law on a mountaintop – a law code for a new nation, but also a moral code that would show just how much they and we need God. God’s preparations included rescues, reminders, messengers and promises. They included the rise of an empire that would unwittingly set the stage for Jesus’ coming - an emperor who’d order a census, a common language and roads that would allow for the spread of the story of Jesus’ birth and life, death and resurrection. They included an angel sent to a young woman and her fiance, and a star that got the attention of magi hundreds of miles away.

There’s so much more that God did to prepare for that first Christmas. And you know something? When I focus on what God did – and still does – to come and meet us in our sad and or grieving and our broken, there’s wonder and gratitude and joy to be found.

Whether you’re finding this Christmas feel festive or blue or just plain busy, I’d encourage you to shift your focus to what God did to get ready for Christmas. You might just find yourself unwrapping some gifts of joy, wonder, gratitude or peace as you do.