The Heart of Christmas

Have you noticed Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas this year? Everyone is trying hard, but despite early decorating and attempts at festive social media posts, Christmas 2020 just isn’t the same.

To say this year has been hard is a massive understatement. And just when you think you’re doing okay handling the strangeness, isolation, and inconveniences, some tiny something zings you and sends you over the edge. For me, it was discovering our photo Christmas card order was lost somewhere in cyber space, and a gift I purchased for one of the grandchildren disappeared in the delivery process.

However, for others, this type of minor inconvenience pales in comparison to overwhelming loss, heartache so much broader, a grief so intense that senses are numbed, and life feels too difficult to take the next breath or the next step. Yet at the very heart of Christmas, no matter what you are facing, these three remain—love, faith, and hope.

Love

When I think of Christmas, I hark back to childhood and all the love, laughter, joy, and commotion of gathering with extended family. I also remember quiet, unscheduled days with my parents.

Daddy liked to surprise people with unexpected gifts and sometimes I was in on those surprises. Often, I accompanied Daddy to deliver boxes of fruit or nuts. It was a joy to see the expressions on people’s faces when they opened the door to an unexpected gift.

I think of the humor and hilarity of gag gifts Daddy and his eight siblings exchanged each year at the family Christmas party. We watched to see who would get the old hat that year and what ingenious method of delivery it would involve. Amid the craziness, you could feel the love.

One year, Daddy had a grandfather clock built by a local woodworker for Mama. I went with him to pick it up late on Christmas Eve afternoon. It was freezing outside as we walked to the shed in the backyard, but inside, the shop was warmed by a wood-burning stove. The place smelled of sawdust, stain, and burning oak. The woodworker’s jovial personality was as heart-warming as the surroundings.

Getting the clock home and then into the house early on Christmas morning without Mama knowing what was going on was a somewhat clandestine endeavor. I will always remember her elation that morning when she saw the clock. Daddy had a knack for giving thoughtful, delightful gifts.

I miss those Christmases with my parents and other loved ones, but there is great love and delight in being with our children and grandchildren in this season of life. So much has happened this year to shift our focus, discourage, promote fear, and bring sadness, but the love we share and the love we give is something no hardship or heartache can diminish.

Faith

One of my most vivid growing up memories revolves around family times of reading the Bible and praying. As was the custom in my father’s family, we knelt to pray. It’s interesting how you feel closer to God when you are on your knees in prayer. Even today, a matter of prayer, whether monumental or small, seems best addressed kneeling. That posture of humility reminds me of my place in relation to Almighty God.

It was important to me to guide my children (and now their children) in a life of faith. Each Christmas, as part of our Christmas celebration, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2, sing carols, and have a birthday cake for Jesus. While singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus may seem strange to some, it helps all of us focus on the heart of Christmas, a Savior born to redeem.

This year has kept most people of faith on their knees. Even those who have only a casual acquaintance with faith have turned to God for comfort and support. In these days of continued uncertainty, faith is the glue that holds life together when everything seems to be falling apart.

Hope

As 2020 draws to a close, we are all in need of a big dose of hope. Like weary travelers looking for a place to rest, a warm inn over the next hill, we are searching for something to lift our spirits and provide promise in the days ahead. Sometimes, current circumstances make forward motion seem impossible. It’s so much easier to remain where we are instead of taking the next steps forward. But God is faithful to guide, support, comfort, and sustain. I have seen his faithfulness over and over this year in so many ways, and I praise him for his goodness and graciousness to us.

This Christmas let the Christ of Christmas strengthen your heart and fill you anew with love, faith, and hope.

My health fails; my spirits droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; he is mine forever! Psalm 73:26 TLB

©CandyArrington

Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House) and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

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