A friend of mine posted this meme on her Facebook page the other day. I admit, I laughed!
We all have friends who hang up Christmas lights before Christmas. At least two of our local radio stations started playing Christmas music on November 1. And at the grocery store the day after Halloween, where I hoped to find clearance candy corn was a big, fat Christmas display! I couldn’t believe it! Although I don’t know why—it seems like Christmas is pushed back further and further every year. And on one hand, that’s okay: it means I can send my sister in Germany Christmassy chocolate chips in time for her holiday baking. But in general, it does feel like The Retail Powers That Be are shoving the holidays in our faces way too soon.
And yet, part of my heart looks at Will Ferrell’s face in this picture and aches a little bit. It aches to experience the happiness that his character in Elf does. It aches to watch Christmas movies with my family, do Christmas baking with my children, deliver goodies to our neighbors, listen to Christmas music and decorate the tree. It aches for the Christmas smells and jingle of bells and the feeling of community when you see your neighborhood decked in lights. It aches for the dingdong of the mail carrier announcing her delivery of boxes, the planning of menus, the dreaming of being with friends and family. It aches for lighting our Advent candles, singing Christmas carols with my Westside family, teaching my children the Christmas passage from Luke, reading a Christmas book each day with the babies.
But mostly, my heart aches for Immanuel.
These wonderful things are intended to celebrate Jesus in his manger. Jesus, come to reconcile God to man. Jesus, come to make relationship with God possible. Jesus, come to bear our sorrows. Jesus, come to make us free. Jesus, come to comfort. Jesus, come to take us Home.
Immanuel, God with us.
The holidays are hard. Christmas is hard. And as much joyful celebrating as there is, my sisters are still thousands of miles away with their babies. My parents celebrate in Heaven. And this year, I won’t be planning Christmas dinner with Kara or giving her our sizes for Christmas pajamas.
The contrast of the brokenness of our world against the joy and abundance of Christmas seems even more stark.
The deep joy of Christmas reminds me of the depth of my hurt. Happiness hurts because it’s not what it should be. There are people missing from our happy home, mamas in Heaven, siblings far away.
Happiness on this earth hurts because it’s just a shadow of God’s original design and what is to come.
And yet, we have the greatest comfort—Immanuel.
God with us.
Immanuel is the solution to the now-but-not-yet we live with. Immanuel reconciles living in pain, mourning deaths, illness, depression, broken relationships, doubtful hearts with the promise that all will be restored some day. Immanuel is the place we find sanctuary when we feel crushed by the brokenness of this world and crushed by our own sin. Immanuel is the God who pursues us when our tears won’t stop. Immanuel is what my heart longs for.
So friends, please be patient with me. If I hang my Christmas lights a little early this year or play Christmas music before Thanksgiving, if you get a Christmas card before you’ve even decided on turkey or ham for Christmas dinner, if I start my holiday baking so early I’ll have to bake again further into Advent, please show me grace. Know that I am desperate to press into Christmas, into the promise of God with us.
In what ways are you needing Immanuel this holiday season? What hurts have you experienced that only Jesus’ presence can heal? How can you reach out to others who are experiencing their own hard?