“Are you ready for the holidays?” My doctor asked by way of greeting.
“Mostly, I guess.”
He quickly followed up, almost cutting me off. “All the activity for one day, and then it’s over. After just one day, it’s all over.”
I kick myself for not speaking what popped in my head, It’s not over after Christmas. The birth of Christ is a beginning, not an ending. I didn’t say it, because as quickly as those thoughts came, a scene of the Christmas tree skirt bare of all except scraps of paper stuck with tape clamped my mouth shut. In truth, the day after Christmas feels like it’s all over. The family will soon leave. We’ll unwind the lights, wrap the creches in tissue paper and pack it all in boxes shoved into the attic until next year. The house will look empty and dull with nothing to anticipate. It will feel like death.
At moments I feel the emptiness even before Christmas Day passes. Ghosts around the table during Christmas dinner sadden me, but missing people and the void of cheer on December 26 are feelings, and they are unreliable.
Emotions are powerful rudders but fickle. A cup of caffeine in the morning can jig me into action or the lack of one can leave me pessimistic and unmotivated. The weather, my hair, the scales, or burned bacon affect my outlook, regardless of facts. Feelings do not reflect truth. Candles, cookies and carols warm or chill the soul with emotion, but the lyrics of Christmas carols ring true without their tunes.
In other seasons when blue emotions hijack me or contradict what I know to be true, I choose to live beyond feelings. I spend moments with Jesus and His word to renew my mind, then reinforce truth by actions. I may feel like hibernating instead of pulling on my walking shoes but head outside anyway.
Christmas and the days afterward are no different from other dark days of the year. I must open my eyes to the reality of God’s gifts surrounding me, not mourn over gifts He chose not to give. Still, it hurts! Emotions squeeze and twist.
Jesus understands what it’s like to be engulfed with emotion, because He experienced it. His coming into the world in the same way all of us did, living through it and dying as we all will, are greater gifts and ultimate comfort than all my loved ones passing dishes to each other.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one, who in every respect, has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
God’s promises possess power to repel gloom or at least to transform sorrow into deep joy independent of emotion. Listen and enter into the joy of Isaiah foretelling the birth of Jesus,
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Jesus came, heralded by the star of Bethlehem. Magi tracked the star to worship Him after He was born. His bright light still shines for us to seek Him. We, too, can find great joy in worshipping Him. The Light of the World doesn’t extinguish when Christmas lights are unplugged or when we are alone. His birth was an ongoing fulfillment of God’s plan from the beginning. Everything is not over December 26, no matter how we feel. Christmas is more of a new beginning than New Year’s Day.
O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
*Thank you to Elizabeth Turnage for allowing her painting to grace the nativity in the photo.