Christmas is my favorite holiday! The food. The decorations. The tree. The lights. The get-togethers with family and friends. The church programs. The music!
Y’all! The music!
The whole season is just so bright and happy and jolly.
Christmases were very merry and bright when I was little – I guess I couldn’t help but love them.
But, the big draw, especially when I was little, was the presents and Santa Claus! Christmas morning – that was the goal the whole season long.
What was under the tree? What was in the stockings? What was wrapped in all those boxes? Who had the present in the biggest box? Who had the present in the heaviest box? Who had the present in the weirdest shaped box?
What was I going to get? Would I get everything I wanted? Would I get something awesome I hadn’t even asked for?
I do remember being disappointed on Christmas morning when I didn’t see a gift that had been on my list…despite all the other gifts I did receive.
I do remember feeling sad when the biggest or heaviest box went to someone else.
I do remember feeling the let-down when I realized there were no more gifts left to unwrap…even as I sat surrounded by all the new toys, games, clothes, or electronics I had already opened.
In my defense, I’m sure I wasn’t the only kid to experience this. Happens every December 25. I imagine many adults can relate to this feeling as well. I know I’ve spent more Christmases than I care to admit feeling sad about something related to the gift-giving part – even as a grown-up.
It definitely helped to have kids. Once we experienced Christmas with our own children, I more fully appreciated how it felt to give.
Still, there was that empty feeling once all the gifts were opened.
There were 365 days until we’d do that all over again, until we’d have that…feeling.
A-ha! It was the feeling! That was it! That Christmas morning feeling! The anticipation. The eagerness. The excitement. THAT was what was so hard to let go. It had been building up for 24 days or more and once it was over…there was an emptiness. A quietness. A sadness. A let-down.
How do you make that last?
We tried spreading out the present-opening part. We’d open gifts with extended family later on Christmas day and eventually did some present opening the day after Christmas.
But, eventually there are no more gifts to open – no matter how long you extend it.
How do you make that Christmas-morning-feeling last?
The past few years, I’ve been praying about it, and God helped me see that I have to desire Jesus more than gifts. I have to want His presence more than I want presents.
That takes praying and being receptive to the changes God wants to make in my heart. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop liking presents or Christmas morning or my mom’s sausage balls or hearing Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas.” It just means I’ll realize Jesus is more valuable than those things.
It has helped me to do an Advent Bible study; I’ve done one the past two years. It helped me focus on the real reason I celebrate.
This year, before we started our Advent study, I prayed for God to give me a heart like Simeon and Anna (Luke 2: 25-38).
I want the Holy Spirit to be upon me like it was upon Simeon, to guide and direct me into the presence of the Lord. I want to serve day and night as Anna did. She never left the temple and her reward was to see the Christ child.
To wait in eager anticipation like Simeon and Anna – that is what I want. To wait to see the promise of God fulfilled in Jesus. That is the excitement I want! That will give me the Christmas-morning-feeling all year ‘round.
I prayed for that this year from the first of December until Christmas, and I believe God answered that earnest prayer of His servant girl. Christmas was happy and bright and exciting for me this year. Opening presents was a jolly time, but I didn’t experience the degree of let-down that I sometimes do when the last piece of shredded gift wrapping paper is thrown in the trash. I was happy, but I was also calm…at peace. The value wasn’t in the gifts; it was in God’s promise. We know that He keeps the promises He makes with His people – the Bible is full of evidence for that. So this Christmas, I focused more on God‘s presence than on presents.
Of course, I will have to continue to pray for this daily, especially when next Christmas rolls around, but I know God will fill my heart with His Son if I ask him to do so.
My prayer this day and every day, for me and for you, is that God would give us hearts like Simeon and Anna.
Always eagerly waiting.
Always faithfully serving.
Always gratefully praising.
Until we see our Christ.