by Katie Smylie
December 13, 2017
It is the most wonderful time of the year! The Christmas season has all the best things—quaint homes with twinkly lights, warm drinks and cozy blankets. I am a sucker for hot cocoa and a crackling fireplace. If you promise we can listen to the Beach Boys Christmas album while we sit in front of a fire, I will hop into my reindeer slippers and bring the mugs, no questions asked. My soul craves the untouched snow sort of Christmas found in movies. If I were to send you a greeting card that represents my perfect Christmas, it would read, “Merry conflict-free, smiling-while-holding-a-hot-bev Christmas! Happy New Year—free from suffering of any kind!”
Yet, the birth of Christ doesn’t fit into that image of Christmas I have created. Instead, the first Christmas was a season marked with isolation, fear and uncertainty. Mary and Joseph were not in their own cozy home when the Son of Man was born. They were in a place meant for animals and far away from their families. My heart hurts when I imagine Mary, a very young girl about to give birth, leaving her home for a treacherous journey with Joseph to Bethlehem. In the last days of my pregnancies, it was hard for me to walk around Target.
I am left wondering and questioning all of my cozy traditions. MUST there be wreaths and stockings? MUST we shop ’til we drop? MUST I drink hot beverages by the fire? What do these things represent? Do my rituals reflect the birth of the Savior? Will they draw me and others to the truth of the story? Will they point my heart to Jesus?
I fear that traditions have tempted me to crave a peace that is not true peace. They tend to conjure up the idea that the right kind of holiday season involves only parties and happy thoughts. I feel a bit entitled to the absence of illness and for all of my people to act kindly to each other. I crave for evil to be wiped out and for no children to be hungry. We ALL crave that kind of peace. But the truth is, Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble…” He did not mention a cozy blanket year after year. In fact if the first Christmas is any indication, it involves intense tension and struggle. Mary and Joseph were pushed to find joy in knowing that their struggle was for an amazing purpose. Joy was found in their hope for redemption and God’s plan to bring true peace through His Son.
There is a place in the Bible where God’s prophet speaks to the nation of Israel. It’s been ringing in my ears during this season. In Ezekiel 13:15-16 it says,
“So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.”
I have whitewashed the image of the true Christmas with my twinkly lights and shopping and hot beverages. The Lord asks His people to see the truth. Not a version of the truth that sounds better or more appealing, but the truth. That is so hard, right? The truth is that we celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to bring restoration to His creation and to lost souls. Not to give us a reason to eat too many candy canes and watch Christmas Vacation. Maybe it is a good time to ask some questions and do a heart-check about the things we hold dear.
Is this about Jesus? Is it sharing His love? Is this act of generosity to glorify God? Why am I doing all this baking? Am I open to stretch, to move with the Spirit?
Would you mind taking a little time in this busy season to ask these questions with me? Perhaps a little tweaking in our seasonal celebrations will bring Jesus to the forefront and show Him off. It is not as cozy to make changes or be open to new things. But we can find joy in knowing it is for an amazing purpose.
Merry Christmas, friends.
Katie is married to Kevin, and mom to Steven, Megan, Claire and Luke. She is the director of our women’s Bible study, The Pursuit, and has been known to listen to the Beach Boys Christmas album in July.