It was a small thing, really. The store clerk couldn’t have known that the stamps she had weren’t going to be my favorite, but it revealed a yucky heart attitude in me and showed me I cared more about myself in that moment than the message of the Nativity stamps I wanted. I held my tongue and took those Santa stamps, reminded that Advent is made of all these small choices. I’ve been a slow learner, I’ll admit. Thankfully, I’m on the road to making Christmas more about Christ than all the other things it sometimes is.
We all come to Christmas with our baggage – albeit wrapped up nicely with shiny paper and bows. It has taken me a while to see the yucky amidst the shiny wrapping in my own life. Good deeds mixed in with selfish expectations, gift giving tied up with my own desires for affirmation, forcing traditions so I’ll have plenty of picture-worthy moments. Certainly, it is good and right to have quality family time, reflect on the meaning of the season, and cultivate habits of service. But God has shown me how having a quiet heart of anticipation, over expectations (for myself or others), makes for a Christmas worth remembering. Am I striving in my own power to make Christmas amazing, but over-spending, over-stretching, over-everything to do it? Am I expecting others to come through for me to make the holiday special (whether I express it or not?) I have in the past, sadly.
The shift in my heart is big – but it’s happened slowly. Too slowly, sometimes. But God is never late, and He has prepared this December with you in mind – and your people. Just like that first one, with all the messy beautiful. Oftentimes we find ourselves either trampled upon, or having made too much of ourselves. Only God knows where our hearts are. I’m stepping back from the big and bold Christmases in my past, in exchange for a quiet, humble, and hopeful one this year. And it feels so good. I’ve gotten all I want for Christmas – God has changed my heart.
You might feel like God is giving you a lump of coal this year, when you look around at your circumstances (I’ve been there) but His heart for us is good. Trust me when I say, I have had those hard (very hard) Christmases. Even though this year is full of joy and hopefulness, the greatest gift God has given me is a changed heart. And the bumpy path is what brought me here. Keep fighting for joy if it’s hard, and give thanks if it’s not right now. He is good, and here is here. Emmanuel, God with us.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5