As I write, one week from Christmas Eve, preparations for the greatest celebration of the year are in full swing. They are affecting me differently this year as I sit by my mother’s hospital bed where we I have been for the past week. I am not sad over being sidelined from the festivities, it simply feels a bit other-worldly, knowing what is taking place out there somewhere. I find myself wondering how I will feel after Christmas.
My social work education involved the study of psychology and sociology, and I realize the effect of those studies on my thinking, particularly about social trends and their effects on us as individuals and groups. I have noticed, for example, there is something satisfying about anticipating and experiencing our end-of-the-year traditions. When they are over and a new year has begun I feel the need to somehow earn that celebration with the efforts of a new year of living, loving, working, and giving. To have doubts about how I will experience Christmas this year makes me wonder if I will somehow miss the sense of my year being complete for having passed through this blessed season.
We are thankful for the prospect of having Mom home a few hours on Christmas Day if she makes the expected transition to another level of care by then and feels up to it. Many people I am aware of have experienced losses, tragedies, and family changes this year to the degree that no sense of normalcy is possible in the observance of December 25. How will they feel after Christmas?
Perhaps we can look back to the beginning for answers. I understand what we celebrate, the birth of Jesus, did not likely occur at the time of year we observe it, but nevertheless, what we celebrate is Christ’s birth. I ask you to think for a moment on the days after Jesus was born, and if I may take the liberty to use this term, the days after Christmas.
We know a few things about the moments and days following the birth of our Savior. Scripture tells about the shepherds, the divine appointment with Simeon and Anna in the Temple, the Wise Men, and the flight to Egypt. We know the horror of Herod’s anger requiring the blood of innocent babies to eradicate a rival to his throne.
Beyond these localized events, what had really changed? The shepherds saw Him no more after finding him in the manger and then returning to their fields. Though they told many, the baby was not seen or heard from again by them to our knowledge.
Simeon no doubt died in peace as he had requested the day his eyes looked upon God’s salvation and the light to lighten the Gentiles. Anna continued to tell the news of a child no one else saw. The wise men traveled on back East to their homes, and things soon became quiet.
Nothing had changed…yet everything had changed.
As Jesus would one day teach about a little leaven leavening the whole lump of dough, the Spirit of God that resided in the Christ child began to work and influence those around Him.
Though most perhaps could not give words to what they felt, there came a time, thirty years after His birth, when people were surprisingly ready to rush out en masse to meet a rough-looking prophet in the wilderness, confess their sins, and be baptized unto repentance.
These who obeyed what John preached had their hearts prepared to receive what Jesus would teach and command as His ministry began to unfold. What had happened during that first Christmas though not immediately obvious, had truly determined what happened after.
I know that sounds simple, but can you see the parallel for your own life? Whatever your expectations for how this season will go—whether you are excited or lonely, busy or bored, contented or anxious, rejoicing or grieving—there is a thing you can do to affect what will come for you after the day of celebration is past.
Suppose you ask God to show you what He wants for you to get from Him this Christmas? “God, help me your way. Help me to receive from You what you came to give me, and to walk in it for all the days after Christmas.”
As in the beginning, the receiving of what God designed to bring will involve repentance. As in the beginning, the receiving of it will involve baptism for the remission of sins. As in the beginning, the receiving of it will involve the glorious infilling of the Holy Ghost. You see, once the leaven of the Word of God manifested in the flesh had completed its initial work, there was a Gospel to be preached in all the earth by Jesus followers that embodied the death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world:
Acts 2:37-40 KJV
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
The PROMISE, heralded by the angels, seen by the shepherds, affirmed by Anna and Simeon, and worshipped by the Wise Men, is unto YOU. Will you choose to walk the path to receive what Jesus came to bring? I pray you find the JOY that was meant to be yours after Christmas.
If you have already experienced this promise but are away from that place in God right now, here is a time to reach for Him again with all your heart and allow Him to restore to you the gift He came to bring.
And if you are currently walking in that truth but find yourself harried, worn, and weary, oh, precious child of God, take a moment to wait before Him, to raise your hands and seek Him for who He is, and let Him joy in flooding you again with His love, hope, peace, strength, and courage. Remember Jesus words to announce His ministry to the world:
Luke 4:18-19 KJV
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
If I use this time to reach out to the One who fulfilled His Word to us by coming to take away our sins and put His Spirit within us, with a will to receive what He came this year to being me, I will walk in a stronger place after Christmas, no matter what happens around me.