For many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a holiday time not of wonder and anticipation, but of pain and dread and dark memories. Families are separated by death or disagreement or illness. Loved ones are missing from celebrations. Finances, already stretched to the limits, are stretched now beyond breaking.
All of these realities are wrapped up and hidden by the beautiful colored paper and pretty bows. And so is the greatest gift of Christmas: Jesus – who brings light in our darkness, hope in our despair, joy in our sorrow, peace in our frenzy.
So how do we unwrap Christmas? How do we discover that greatest gift? How do we find the Giver?
As you move through Advent (“the coming”) this month, make the Christmas story your own. Here are some ways to do that:
- Expect the unexpected: look for, listen for, welcome the angels who announce the coming. “Don’t be afraid! Instead, rejoice, for God is with you!” Trust their surprising message of hope.
- Keep it simple: the newborn King was wrapped in simple cloths and laid in a feeding trough. His birth was announced not on TV, but to lowly shepherds. Brown paper and twine may be more fitting gift wrap than sparkles and bows. Keep your own celebrations simple, too.
- Turn on the lights: Jesus is the Light that shines in the darkness. Lights on the tree or house, candles on the table … each offers light in the long nights of winter. Use an Advent wreath and its five candles to build anticipation of Jesus’ birth. (Light one candle each Sunday of December before Christmas, and the last—the center candle—on Christmas Eve or Day.)
- Ponder the story: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Slow down. Sit. Be still … ponder. That can’t be done quickly. Use an Advent Calendar or a book of Advent meditations—or both—to slow down each day, even if only for five minutes. Consider using Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift.
This year, let’s unwrap Christmas … together.