Saturday, December 31, 2011

Living in the Shadow of Christmas

The notoriously joy-filled and peaceful season of Christmas has come and gone. Presents have been ripped open (and either enjoyed or returned), the twinkling lights shine no longer, decorations have been packed up, feasts and cookies have been consumed and life returns to normal (perhaps with a few extra pounds around our waists).

The days before Christmas are full of anticipation, preparation and excitement. Then, come December 26th, the magic and merriment seem to vanish instantaneously. Life goes on and the cycle continues the following December.

Is this how Christmas should be - a short-lived, seasonal moment of excitement? For those who have come to know Christmas in terms of a "Hallmark holiday" - mainly existing for consumeristic purposes, with no real depths or meaning other than an opportunity to shower those we love with the latest and greatest gifts and rack up a whole bunch of credit card debt - then the joy of this season really is only temporary (with the ending result/shadow of Christmas including momentary excitement until the gifts get old and the burden of debt).

For those of us who claim to know the real reason for the season - God incarnate who came for all mankind as a baby in a lowly manger - then the "shadow" of Christmas is more like a brilliant light, full of peace, joy and redemption that floods our entire lives. If the reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, then the rest of our year should be spent living out a life of thanksgiving to God. If we know the reason for the season, our lives will be full of light, our situations will look radically different and we will know a source of hope and unsurpassable peace, even in the face of trials, tribulations and despair.

If we celebrate Christmas with purpose and richness that can only be attributed to the birth of a Savior, Christmas songs have more meaning, love has greater depths and hope knows no bounds. For those who are trapped in the patterns of the consumeristic Christmas and for those who live in the seemingly unshakeable shadows of darkness, depression and despair even in the Christmas season, there is hope. It is never too late to know and experience the good life in Christ. And for those who know this Savior, let us rejoice in the opportunity to experience Christmas joy year round, even after the lights are packed up and the decorations are put away.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. - Titus 3:4-7