I have to tell you, I really love the Christmas season.
Upon hearing that, some of you agree and some of you cringe. And I think that’s a part of why I love it… the wonder, the complexity, the thought-provoking element that it brings.
For me, whether its Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Winter Break, this time of year gathers all my friends, from all sorts of backgrounds and beliefs, into a similar song. It opens hearts and love abounds. I love that it breaks down barriers and it brings people together. I love that so many share the desire to celebrate, to have joy, to be generous and festive. It’s a time when families gather, traditions are created, pictures are taken, and memories are made. It’s a time we think of others and how to delight their hearts. Even our houses are decked out with such gaudy atrocity that kids squeal with delight! Schools get a break, many people get at least a day or 2 extra off, and calendars are overflowing with party plans.
Pausing and looking around, I think we display community more right now than any other time of year. And I believe Jesus is with us here. In the middle of this. He is with us, and He loves this.
But there’s more, isn’t there? As I’ve gotten older and experienced more life, I have both experienced and witnessed a different view of the holidays. There is also the side of not having a group to gather with, of all this togetherness making the alone so clear, painfully highlighting what is lacking. Of not being able to afford to eat, let alone buy gifts for the family. Of the very words used to celebrate this time causing division and pain. Of the highlighted suffering in the world contrasted by spending $5 for a red cup. Of remembering a lost loved one, the suffering and sadness of the last with or the first without. Of memories being more painful than warm, of curling up at home and just wishing it was January. Of the tension of holding the broken overshadowing the invitation to celebrate. Jesus is with us here too. In the midst. Holding us tight and sharing in our tears.
And as I have taken this time to stop and try to capture a summary of what others may experience in this season, I realize that this is an impossible task. I am likely leaving out your point of view, what is important to you, what you are passionate about, what you love and what you hate about Christmas time, and I’m sorry. The truth is, each one of us would describe this season, this moment, in a totally unique way. Our internal design, our likes and dislikes, our memories and wounds, our families and surroundings shape each one of us so totally uniquely and cause us to experience this season so differently. I think that is amazing. But the really amazing thing is, in each of our descriptions, whether we know it or not, only one thing never changes - Jesus is with each one of us.
So this season I have spent many quiet mornings, with my cup of coffee, learning to just sit with this dichotomy. For me, I realize it’s actually the reason why I love this season. I realize that every single person would describe their Christmas differently. Their likes, dislikes, beliefs, and the list goes on. But that doesn’t change a Truth. Christmas is declaring a Truth. And the Truth of Christmas time is so much bigger than our current experience and circumstances. And whether we realize it or not, whether we make it the center or a side note, whether we even believe it or not, the Truth of Christmas is Jesus, and that He is with us.
Christmas is an indisputable Truth and a reminder of just that - that Jesus is with us. Immanuel. That He came down in the raw, in the real, in the poop and the blood, the miraculous and the mundane. He experienced the silly, the fun and the festive, and He also experienced the sad, and the deep, and the painful.
He is the two sides to the coin. He holds the tension. He knows that in God’s Presence is the fullness of joy, and that as we are suffering, we are in God’s Presence. He is the King and the Baby. He is the Ruler and the Crucified. He is the life that is attained through death. He is LOVE.
And that is what is being highlighted to me during Advent this year. As I go through each week, taking time out, making space, being present, the tension gets very loud. Trying to hold my view, and your view, and make space for the rest of the world’s experience right now. I wrestle with how to give a voice to it all, how to honor God in it, how to love people in it, how to balance having so much going on at the same time. As we prepare, whatever that looks like for each of us, we cannot help but stumble into this wrestling match – for each of us it’s varied and personal and real. And He is with us.
He knew there was no easy answer. He knew there wasn’t a right slogan or a pat solution that would help us with this wrestle of life. He made us way too complex for that! He made each of us so unique and varied. He knew that only by coming, only by really Him personally being with each one of us, would we have access to the answer. And the answer is Him!
Jesus said, “In this world you will have troubles.” And we can all attest that this is true. But….He is with us and He has overcome this world.
So as Christmas Eve comes upon us, and we get ready to light the last candle of Advent, this is what stands out to me: Jesus is with us. Immanuel.
My prayer as you read this is….that you would feel His presence. That whether this moment is filled with excitement or suffering, you would know that He is with you. His love gives you permission to wrestle and grace for what that looks like. He joins in your laughter and wipes your tears. He knows what hurts, and He understands our why. We just get to be exactly who we are, and He is always with us.
And He is with us, also helping us to love our neighbors – giving us the patience and insight to honor their wrestling, the love to let them be in their process, and the understanding of how complex and different we all are. He is reminding us that He came for all of us, and that He asks us to love and let His light shine, because through this is how others will come to know Him.
So this holiday season, I wish you a season that is filled with the wonder of the Truth. The Truth that is the foundation below it all, that never changes, that we can count on, and that will never will leave or forsake us. Immanuel.
Thank you for being part of my community, and a wonderful piece of my life that I treasure! Much love to you today!
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
About the Author
Pam Sand is a fun and encouraging team-builder that brings the best to those around her. She loves young people and is committed to serving and mentoring kids with opportunities to grow closer to God and each other. She joined our staff team in 2012 and oversees the ministry of ages from birth to eighth grade. Pam and her husband, Jared, have been married since 2005 and have three boys.