I plugged the three, hundredth string of twinkling lights into the middle of the Christmas tree. Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. My heart was full! Listening to songs of Christmas worship and pondering the magnificent and grace filled birth of my precious Savior! He has come! Suddenly the three-hundred twinkling lights I had spun on the tree didn’t seem like enough! How could I ever put enough lights on the tree to express my heartfelt joy of the Savior’s incarnation?
I have been told since I was a little girl that Christmas is not about the gifts under the tree or the food on the table. Christmas is not about the lights or the stockings. From stories like The Grinch by dear old Dr. Seuss to Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the heart of Christmas is displayed as more dear than all the decorations, gifts, food, and traditions we enroll in our Christmas festivities.
But what is the heart of Christmas? Secular stories might leave that answer to the reader’s imagination. Generosity, benevolence, joy, and peace are often spoken of by both secular and Christian’s during the Christmas season. But is any one of those what fires our souls during the Christmas season?
My heart overflowing, as it meditates on the holy, righteous, merciful God, and Him who lowered Himself to my pitiful human level for the sake of my redemption. The fullness of time had come, what the earth groaned for had arrived. Healing of what was broken was about to begin.
The Christmas spirit is a leaping spirit; much like that of baby John. Luke 1:41 “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
My soul is a leaping soul as it ponders my Savior and His coming to earth. I resonate with John as my soul literally boils with joy! This is Whom my soul knows and loves! He came! What preciousness there is in setting aside a month of the year to worship my Savior as I ponder His incarnation!
God’s own beloved Son, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Phil. 2:6-7. This is not something to be taken for granted, pushed aside or downplayed! I am so grateful our culture takes the month of December to focus on that incredible, divine outpouring of God’s grace to us.
I added another string of lights to the tree….
How often I had allowed myself to feel guilty about our family’s extravagant celebration of Christmas…gifts, decorations, food…. But now, I feel no remorse. My leaping spirit is free. The celebration takes place in my heart, and if my extravagance in the celebration within finds its joy in lights, food, and gifts that serve as reminders and ongoing outpourings of my inadequate celebration of Christ’s birth. No one ought bear no remorse for that.
It is very freeing to simply worship in all things. I can do that with a tree loaded with a thousand lights, or with nothing but a small candle and some holly on my dining room table. I can worship Christ through the giving of gifts, expressing love toward others by giving extravagantly, or simplifying my gifts to home-made keepsakes.
Simplifying the Christmas season does not necessarily focus one’s attention on Christ any more than extravagance does. One either finds complete joy in Christ or she does not, regardless of if it is Christmas or not.
It is in my heart where worship takes place. And through that heart I can choose to keep Christmas in a simple manner or in a brilliant way. I can take joy in a simple string of lights on a tabletop tree, or in a ten foot tree decked with bulbs and lights.
What my heart has come to understand, is that there is no right or wrong in how a one celebrates Christmas. The point is that the joy of my Savior thrives within my heart all year, every year.
Ebenezer Scrooge proclaims at the realization that Christmas is not an event but a spirit of the heart: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” Charles Dickens
So may my heart leap at every thought of Christ’s incarnation, at Christmas, every day, and all year long! And may I not shut out the joy I have in my Savior.
“How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Mary’s Magnificat: Luke 1:47
For more reflections about our Savior’s birth check out a past post: For the Keeping of Christmas.