THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

Call me crazy, but I can’t wipe this smile off my face. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – it’s Christmas! Don’t judge me, but my house has been decorated since before Thanksgiving. The tree was up, and lights were strung throughout the house days before the smell of turkey wafted in the air. My excuse was that my grand-kids, Grace and Emma, were coming. But the truth is, I love a month of Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season, and I love to celebrate Him! In the frozen North where I live, it’s dark until after 8 AM. The first thing I do in the early morning – after putting the coffee brewing – is plug in all of my lights. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Just as the gospel of Jesus Christ sheds the light of God’s love into our hearts and lives, Christmas lights dispel the darkness of December mornings. Beautifully wrapped presents are under the tree – tokens of love for family and friends, to be sure, but also symbolic of the greatest Gift ever given: “For God so loved the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). The Nativity is the focal point of my living room from the beginning of Advent. Its place of prominence reminds me where my focus should be amidst holiday preparations and celebrations. The angel announced to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12). The decorations on the tree – angels, wise men, miniature nativities, lambs and stars – tell the story of Christmas. Also hanging on the tree is a cross to remind us that while Christ’s birth is worthy of celebration, His death was the reason He came: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15) That truth hit home the year I used an old hymnal for my morning Advent meditations. As I meditated on the joy-filled carols, I realized that the next grouping of songs was for Good Friday and Easter. Jesus was born to die. The music of Christmas is everywhere: in my house, in my car and in my heart. It is all a reminder of the angel choirs that sang that first Christmas: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) The popular song “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” speaks to the longing we have to be with family during the holidays. Although it’s a secular song it, it hints at a bigger truth: Because God has put eternity in our hearts, we long for the day when wrong will be made right and we will gather with loved ones in the very presence of God. Until that day, let us celebrate Christmas, not just as the most wonderful time of the year, but also as the most wonderful birth that ever was. What a birth! What a Savior! Today’s Challenge: There are reminders of Christ in our Christmas traditions. Ask God to help you be mindful of them; then share the meaning with your children and grandchildren. It is the most wonderful time of the year – celebrate...