Recently I came across a quote online that said, “Christmas isn’t about what’s under the tree, its what’s in your heart.” Thinking this was a beautiful message, I shared this to a social media page. I immediately received a response from a follower who said. “It’s hard to have Christmas in your heart when your loved ones are sick.” They proceeded to say this was the hardest time and felt like giving up.
While many people look at the joy in Christmas and the commercialism which can sometimes mask the meaning, it broke my heart to hear this response because this person was clearly not focused on the commercial aspect but more about the humaneness of Christmas. Yet it was clear they could not see Jesus present.
This reminded me that even on Christmas Day, God does not remove the hard and the difficult. And he did not become an exception, instead he showed that his own family struggled.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus* that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child. Luke 2:1-6
The Holy Family was required to travel for the Census during Mary’s third trimester, the most inconvenient and most unprecedented time of her pregnancy. If you’ve ever talked to an OBGYN, the last few months of pregnancy is considered the most difficult and dangerous time for women to travel. In fact the first Christmas was probably the most inconvenient and worrisome time. Yet Mary and Joseph never gave up. They never stopped trusting God’s plan for them. Mary should have been home with her family having other women attend to her to help her during her labor. Instead she and Joseph found themselves turned out by strangers, limited to help. She could have easily given up and yet she had full faith God would provide shelter. Jesus was born in a cave surrounded by animals in the meekest place imaginable. There were no trees or tinsel, yet that first Christmas Jesus entered into their hearts.
I think about Jesus birth and how it could have been so different and yet for all intents and purposes it was carried out in the manner that it was. Jesus was born to fulfill a purpose.
Thinking back to that social media comment, I don’t want to down play the sorrow and the suffering. We all know someone who has it rough this time of year. We’ve lost family members, we have sickness, poverty or other difficult situations, and yet God doesn’t promise us health, he doesn’t promise us ease, or comfort.
He promises us eternal life. He promises us his son. He promises us that this life is a stepping stone for a bigger life in heaven.
And while that might not always be the most comforting answer, I am comforted knowing that God understands. I’m comforted knowing that God did not make Christmas about presents or even about warm cozy feelings, rather he offered his son to us so that every Christmas afterwards we would know that we’re not alone. When I think of Christmas is in my heart, I think of Jesus love. He is in my heart. My broken, imperfect, difficult heart and I’m comforted in knowing that even in the hardships of loss, of sickness, God takes care of us if we allow him in. He has not given up on us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave* his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. John 3:16