By Jodi Thomas
I was talking with a group of friends back in November, and they all were counting down the days until the Christmas season. When I mentioned that I didn’t really like Christmas, my words did not compute; it was like I told them I liked to kill baby kittens. I explained how, growing up in a broken home, Christmas tended to be a sad holiday for me. And now, as a mom and wife who tries to make Christmas special for my family, I get overwhelmed by all the extra things added to my plate—shopping (I don’t like to shop either, by the way), baking, Christmas cards, and let’s not forget moving that dadgum elf every night. “Elfie” about sends me over the edge every year. I truly dislike that I feel this way, but it’s just the way it is for me.
Two things help lift me up out of my holiday funk. First, I live with Mr. Christmas. My 16-year old listens to Christmas Carols all year long; his Christmas cheer infuses joy into our holiday season for sure.
But more importantly, I go back to the basics: Jesus. I know the Christmas trees, Christmas lights, presents, snowmen, cookies, and candy canes are all wonderful. And, honestly, I do truly enjoy these things. But there’s a part of the “Christmas machine” that leaves me feeling empty every year. Maybe because the heart of Christmas is the most simple message of all: Love. 1 John 4:9-10 says:
This is how God showed His love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Did you get that? NONE of us loved God first. . . HE loved us first. In the midst of our “ugly,” our mistakes, our stubbornness, He Loves Us. Each of us is special to Him, and He wants a relationship with each and every one of us. So He sent His Son.
1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” God loved us so much, He sent his Son as a sacrifice; Jesus loved us so much He was willing to do it and literally died for us. Because they loved, they gave. That is why we celebrate Christmas. Love left the glory and splendor of heaven. . . Love put baby skin on. . . that would be pierced with nails 33 years later. . . so that we might live. And not just live, but live with the abundance of His grace, mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love, hope, kindness, gentleness, and faithfulness towards us.
And this is why we give, because we’ve been given to. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). We can love, because we are loved. This Christmas, as we are thinking about the gifts we’d like to purchase for our family or friends, what intangible—yet ever more so powerful—gifts can we give to those we love? The gift of grace, of forgiveness, of acceptance. We have the power to give these, because they are ours in abundance from God.
So if you find yourself fighting for a parking space at the mall, burning your Christmas cookies, or running out of tape when you have 35 gifts left to wrap, take a deep breath. And remind yourself that, honestly, none of that matters. What matters is the priceless gift of love that God gave to us in Jesus. You. Are. Loved. End of story.
Oh, and don’t forget to move the elf.