A time that is "supposed" to be happy, often isn't. Why?
After our Christmas program I saw a friend standing alone at the back of the church, wiping tears from her eyes. I went and talked to her. Both of her parents died this year and she always came to the Christmas program with her mom to watch her kids be angels and shepherds. But this Christmas she has no mom, she has no dad. Her sadness is heartbreaking.
The holidays (late November to early January) are also times of bizarre expectations. The parties and get-togethers, every gift given and received, the Christmas cards, each food item on the table, all of the decorations, everything is supposed to be perfect and provide happiness unknown at any other time of the year. It's enough to drive anyone mad.
What has happened to the "merry" in Merry Christmas?
What does any of this really have to do with Christmas anyway? The celebration is to remember and rejoice in the fact that God came to earth in human form. That's Christmas, the fulfillment of ancient prophesies. A baby born in a manger, with angels singing and shepherds worshiping. There were no parties, no fancy foods, no presents (the Wise men did not find Jesus until he was about two-years-old), no decorations, just a homeless couple and their new baby in a stable.
Even so, I love the trappings of Christmas. We hung stockings at work and dropped presents into each others stockings (secret Santa with no pressure). I sent a section of my Christmas cards so they arrived at their destination before Christmas. I mailed presents to out-of-towners in time that they could be opened on Christmas. No decorations save the poinsettias around the trees outside. I made cranberry salad for Christmas dinner and wrapped a lot of gifts. I got great presents this year and the ones I bought for others were received with true feelings of joy and gratitude.
But there is something better than any of that, my nephew and his wife, who were told they would never get pregnant, are! Their baby is due July 11. It's a Christmas miracle. Everything else pales by comparison.
Here's my heartfelt, albeit simplistic understanding of Christmas as Christ's mass, that is his sacrifice for us that began when he gave up his throne in heaven to be born and live on earth in a human body so that we might be saved. It is so simple but can get so complex and requires a measure of faith to believe.
Let Jesus dwell in your heart and keep your eyes open for the miracles of God around you and you will surely find the merry in your Christmas and the happy in your new year.