I absolutely love this season. I love Christmas Blend coffee at Starbucks. I love eggnog. I love that people seem- at times- to try a little harder to think about others. I love watching Christmas movies - A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Elf, A Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, etc. Again, I absolutely love the Christmas season.
It wasn't always this way.
I used to despise the season. People seemed to be so crass. Everywhere I went people seemed to stressed. At every turn, some tragedy promised to rob people of any Christmas joy. People didn't seem to find any hope in the season. Every word I ever heard - and consequently spoke- was nearly void of any joy. Sadly, this was even the case as a new follower of Christ.
However, that all changed one winter afternoon.
One year as a college student and new believer, I was working at a coffee shop in a shopping center in OKC. The center was home to a number of different business: a bowling alley, flower shop, clothing retailer, GNC, and a call-in center that went through names like we went through coffee beans. Situated at the corner of the shopping center parking lot was local pizza shop. Easily within walking distance, we would often walk over there from time to time for lunch and their employees would come over for coffee. A fellow worker at the coffee shop - we'll call her Cindy- had befriended woman from the pizza place. Both women were single parents so they had a fairly kindred spirit, but Cindy was older so she somewhat took the older sister approach. Cindy would tell me about how this young lady was having a really difficult time during the season. She didn't make much money which impacted groceries, bills, and was now showing signs of making Christmas stressful. In addition to this, she was having a real difficult time with her kids father who was promising to make life extremely difficult. One day, both ladies came into the shop and were discussing it. Between tears of frustration and rage, this young woman talked about her struggle. Finally at one point she simply stated the kids dad had "ruined Christmas." I remember thinking to myself that shouldn't be possible. No one should be able to ruin Christmas, but then again I gather I had the same ideas about it myself. While my situation wasn't the same as hers, I could definitely sense that I was missing something from this season that had at some point been robbed of me - or so I thought.
Up to that point, I had completely missed the purpose of the Christmas season. At some point, everyone struggles with hopelessness. At some point, everyone battles uncertainty. At some point, everyone wonders why life has turned out the way it has. At some point, everyone feels everyone feels like all their joy is gone. This is a reason for the Christmas season - Hope. Christmas is intended to point people to the answer to their brokenness. Christmas is supposed to be a time when the words of peace can be heard in the depths of our spirit. Christmas is quite literally designed to fix the things that have been ruined.
Can I tell you what truly led me to that epiphany? Christmas Music.
I have spent the last several years listening only to Christmas music between Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Every day for me is filled with words of joy, excitement, anticipation, hope, peace, love, mercy, and promise. Not all of the music is considered "christian", but all of it has the presence of the sacred. Why is that? Because I learned one valuable lesson so many years ago in that coffee shop:
No one should be able to ruin Christmas, because Christmas is always about fixing the problem not creating it.
Go in Peace.