Whether it’s due to the death of a loved one, illness, quarantine, travel restrictions, or gathering restrictions, Christmas will look different this year for many of us.
Black Friday and the weeks after would usually bring the hustle and bustle of shopping for Christmas presents, attending Christmas parties, and participating in events to bless those less fortunate than me.
But this year, most of my shopping was completed between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and on a much lower scale. This was the first Christmas that I didn’t buy myself a gift while shopping for others, even though I was tempted a few times. I knew something would be different about Christmas this year.
While looking for a new devotional to close the year with, my YouVersion app had suggestions for Advent devotions. I never knew what the word Advent meant until I was well in my adult years and began seeing people mention it on social media. All I knew was that Advent was the most common misspelling of my last name.
Originally Advent was a period of fasting leading up to Christmas, similar to how Lent is for Easter, but not as long. But over the years, Advent observances and traditions had evolved to different ways churches and families could prepare their hearts for Christmas, and also the second coming of Christ. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.
As I contemplated this markedly different holiday season, I really wanted to focus and prepare my own heart to truly celebrate and commemorate Christ’s birth, especially since much of the holiday busyness that usually overwhelmed me wasn’t present this year. I yearned for something to fill the space that the cancellation of traditional activities now provided.
Over the years I’ve heard complaints about Christmas, and how it’s so commercialized, it’s a pagan holiday, and the true meaning has been lost. Usually I dismiss those criticisms, but this year after I read yet another complaint about how Christmas was not even Jesus’ birthday and He probably wasn’t even born this time of year, I struggled with what I was truly celebrating.
I always considered Christmas a celebration of Jesus’ birth and probably referred to it as Jesus’ birthday when the girls were younger. But if I’m being honest, my main focus for Christmas was the joy of being around family and friends, and His birth was a secondary celebration.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I love decorating our home, the girls’ excitement as we approach the 25th, having friends and family over for our big Christmas Eve dinner, being woken up on Christmas morning and reading the 2nd chapter of Luke as a family before heading downstairs, and smiling with pride and contentment as everyone opens their gifts.
But during this time of Advent, each day brought a devotional to redirect me to the miracle of Jesus’s birth, and all the amazing gifts that we have been blessed with through His life, and the gifts of love and compassion that we can give to others.
So even if Jesus wasn’t born this time of year, this holiday isn’t about when He was born, but the fact that He WAS born. And the greatest thing about His birth is that He was born to die, so that we could be saved from our sins and live with him forever.
And while that is a blessing, this year I find myself frequently thinking about another often-overlooked gift from His birth. In these turbulent times where people are scared, lonely, depressed, despondent, and grief-stricken, there is an amazing gift tucked into the story of the angel telling Joseph that the virgin Mary would give birth to a son.
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ Matthew 1:23 NLT
What did that really mean? No sacrifices were needed, I didn’t have to do any special deeds, and no one had to pray to God on my behalf. I have direct access to God because He is now with me. When I invite Jesus into my heart, the presence of God is with me and will never leave me.
Because of Immanuel, God is with you. God is with me. Right here. Right now.
Despite whatever we are feeling, whatever we are going through, God is right here with us. And it’s all because of His son Jesus. He paved the way for God to be in the midst of whatever is happening right now in our lives. And this Christmas, that truth has brought me so much peace.
No matter what you’ve gone through so far, no matter how you’re feeling right now, never forget that God is there. He sees you, He knows you, and He is with you.
So maybe December 25th is not Jesus’ birthday after all, but it is the day we commemorate His birth and celebrate the gift that His life brings us.
The Creator of the universe is with us. What a gift!
Do you believe God is with you? Or do you think He is off somewhere in heaven, beyond the sky, and you hope He hears you when you pray to Him?
Have you asked Jesus into your heart so you can have this amazing gift? This Christmas, I want you to really consider what it means to know that because of Jesus’ birth, God is now with you.
As we take this day to remember the gifts we have received from God, we can also find ways to bless others with the gift of love – be it with:
our time (giving ourselves)
our talents (sharing the unique abilities that God has given us)
our resources (giving our finances or tangible gifts)
Feel free to respond in the comments section… and share this story with someone in your life that could use the encouragement.
Follow Destined 4 the Dub for Encouragement, Inspiration, and Motivation as you travel through the tough times in life. You ARE Destined to win and get the Dub!