Photo by Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash
It has occurred to me that the season of Advent/Christmas is a season when our enemy Satan is hard at work on our hearts.
For many, many years I have struggled with feeling cranky at Christmas. The pressure to bake the best treats, build the biggest gingerbread house, give the cheeriest greetings, send 100 Christmas cards (with a beautiful family photo!), make it to every party, make my house super pretty, buy presents for everyone I know—to make this Christmas the VERY BEST ONE—it exhausted and depressed me. Christmas carols became old-hat and annoying. Christmas Day became disappointing. Sure, I remembered “the reason for the season.” But every year I felt like I was drowning.
Last year at the beginning of December, getting up in the middle of the night, I fainted and ended up with stitches, staples, and a tongue so damaged I couldn’t eat solid foods for over a week. It began a series of hard situations and events that knocked me very low. I was in such a bad mood that I kept a list of the things that went wrong and “spoiled my Christmas.” I left decorating to the children. I made no cookies. I visited no neighbors. I did no Advent study. I was as anti-Christmas as I have ever been.
The enemy scored.
Darkness needs us to be grouches at Christmas. The demons love to see Christ’s people fail to celebrate. Oh, how Satan wants to turn our hearts from joy to aggravation. He is a prowling lion. Can you hear his taunts? “Ugh, this world has messed up Christmas so much it’s no fun anymore. Everyone is so materialistic…. This season is so stressful; look at all the extra work that you have to take on…. Ugh, Christmas music everywhere!… You know how awful it’s going to be when you go home…. You only gave them cookies? You’re so cheap!”
This year my holiday season started with the loss of a dear friend to cancer. Grief is hovering over me. It would be another good year to check out of Christmas, I think.
For some reason—call it Prodding By The Holy Spirit, if you will—this year, I have a surprising renewed interest in the festivities of Christmas. This year, my children were shocked when I began to come home with new decorations. I agreed to go to the Messiah with my father. I bought Christmas socks. I got excited about building an Oreo cookie Christmas train. Christmas songs are playing in my head. I told my girlfriend that I thought I was actually getting excited about Christmas this year; she looked at me like I’d grown a second head.
Not that any of these activities are the point of Christmas. But for me, I know they are signs of a renewed joy, a determination to celebrate the birth of my Savior this year, no matter what.
In the middle of writing about my renewed joy, yesterday I fell again. It was a bad fall, and I am hobbling about the house today in a good amount of pain. The similarity to last Christmas has not gone unnoticed. What will I do? I know that the enemy is watching.
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of the Almighty’s servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who fear God
from generation to generation.
God has shown strength with God’s arm;
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped servant Israel,
in remembrance of God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1: 46-55)
Mary, a poor, young, pregnant, unmarried girl—among the lowliest in society with every reason to be scared, depressed, and self-pitying—Mary cries out in joy and praise to her Hope. Her God is the victor, the one who brings justice and peace. She believes He is doing great things. She remembers the great things He has done. She must celebrate!
I think about Joseph. A righteous man of faith, placed into a situation where he must wed a girl whom the world will think is a harlot. He has reasons to doubt. He has reasons to be angry, even. Instead, he bravely shepherds his small family, listening to angels that come in dreams, trusting that a sudden move to Egypt will turn out fine.
Mary and Joseph could have let the attacks Satan employed take away their hope. Instead, they chose to obey and rejoice.
The way we celebrate Advent and Christmas is very important. Even if our circumstances or personality do not allow for big decorations or presents or even lots of laughter—our disposition this season means so much. We are the ones who know why Christmas exists. We are the ones who, in the middle of all the other seasonal noise, can tell the world that Jesus came. We are the ones who hold the truth that HE WILL COME AGAIN.
Advent/Christmas is hard. Many of us struggle to afford food and house, much less presents. Many of us have lost loved ones. Many of us have to visit difficult families. The world is falling apart around us. How do we rejoice like Mary and obey like Joseph?
Through prayer. Through the Holy Spirit. Through the power of His Word. Through determination and baby steps. We must tell the gospel to ourselves every day. It matters, church. What we do in this sometimes exhausting, sometimes fretful season matters. In whatever way we choose, we have the opportunity to tell amazing news! Jesus came here! Jesus took our flesh and dwelt among men. And HE WILL COME AGAIN and SET ALL THINGS RIGHT.
And when we turn from our own celebrations and seek out the hurting—the homeless, the poor, the abandoned, the battered—when we seek them out and bring Christmas to them, we defeat the enemy in a mighty, mighty way.
Pray with me, join with me, North Wake, in seeking to rejoice this Christmas, despite the circumstances. Can we meet this Advent season with extreme faith and great rejoicing? Jesus IS coming back soon. HE IS COMING! HE DID IT ONCE, AND HE WILL DO IT AGAIN! Merry Christmas!