On To Bethlehem

Christmas trees cut from Uncle Allen’s farm, listening to the chorus of “Be good because Santa Claus is coming and have you been a good boy,” hanging big bulb red, green, yellow, blue strings of lights, the smell of cedar in the house, taming excitement into sleep, barely sleeping so to wake early—these are my remembrances, simple triggers formed in me when Christmas giving meant getting.  

Then Christmas came and Christmas went, each coated with the warm feeling I felt, the spirit of Christmas they called it, and inside me, secretly, the season’s sense of surprise, the “What would I get this year” question lined my thoughts while I paid homage to the season’s platitudes.  

Years blurred the memory. Enough time passed while the triggers began to fade and the warm feeling, too. Effort replaced those childhood and childlike associations until I could no longer muster a spirit at all. Going through the motions, I wondered and though I was present at gatherings, nothing about the tinsel and red sweaters and smiles ignited in me any sense these things meant Christmas. I knew they didn’t. 

For too long, I played the victim to those imagined Christmases. I joined in the merriment knowing something inside me was dying. I didn’t want it to. Losing it, I thought, meant God would become distant, or worse, I would from Him. If the warm feeling, the “spirit of Christmas” severed from me, what then? My silent night awaited. 

God has a way of providing, of giving, even when we do not ask because our brains are too clouded to know for what to ask. Bewilderment overtook my Christmas history. Though I tried, I could not better my way out of this predicament. I had to let my Christmas idea dissolve and wait for God.  

In a real sense, every Christian must journey to Bethlehem and see the Christ child. Seeing Him, really seeing Him, opens us to the truth His birth is a dividing line between earth and Heaven, between that which must be mortified in us and what must be born anew, a hope as promise, not wish or want. For me, this meant allowing my false idea about a Christmas spirit to die and allowing God room to come closer before I became better. 

Christmas morn now greets me with a peace He worked in me before I could see, before I knew my need. Only in the aftermath did I become aware. I am not good. God is. 

Like the Magi and the Shepherds, we too say, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see the Christ child.” From fields and deserts, we journey toward that silent night, past tinseled lights and neon embers glow, past wishes and wants and neatly tied bows. And when by hurried rush our imagined Christmas fades, and last our hearts are still, into a manger’s hope we gaze upon God’s holy will. 

May God’s blessings, love, and peace reign in your silent night. Merry Christmas! 

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