Bright beautiful lights, piles of gifts under the tree, cookies, parties, shopping… these are the things that have defined all my past Christmases. Don’t get me wrong.. I never forgot the true reason for the season. Everything I did, I did in celebration of the Savior’s birth. It is traditionally a busy, hectic, and happy time of year.
This year is different. Economics and lack of employment opportunities have forced us to rethink the holiday. An imminent move has kept our holiday decorating to the very minimum. There is no 6ft tree proudly displaying ornaments collected over the years. Instead, we have a small Charlie Brown tree sitting humbly on the end table. There is really no “under the tree” although that’s not much of an issue, as we have very few gifts to put there. My heart breaks for my boys, for they deserve so much more. But my heart also bursts with pride as they remind me and their dad that Christmas isn’t about gifts.
No Christmas tree, very few gifts.. it’s enough to really stomp out any Christmas Spirit. Yet, I think this is the first year that I have really felt even close to how that little family felt in Bethlehem all those years ago.
Mary was due to give birth at any time, yet had to travel a long arduous journey away from the comfort of her own home. What should have been a happy time of nesting and preparation was instead of difficult time of walking and donkey riding. Poor Mary could only hope that she actually made it to an inn, and pray that the accommodations were nice. We all know how that ended. There was no room for her inside the inn, so her baby was born in a stable… forget about clean linens. She was hoping for clean hay. Her precious baby’s first bed was a manger, a trough for the animals. I can only imagine how her heart broke, just like mine, thinking her baby deserved so much more.
And what about Joseph? The weight on his shoulders must have been unbearable. I’m sure he blamed himself and his heritage that required this trip to his homeland so late in his wife’s pregnancy. It didn’t matter that he was dealing with circumstances beyond his control. He wanted more for Mary and the baby. God had entrusted them into his care and the best that he could do was stables far, far from home. Could this be how my dear husband feels this season?
Despite all the struggles Mary and Joseph faced, I am sure that peace reigned that night. The same is true for us. This Christmas we have experienced peace in the midst of chaos, and joy in the midst of sorrow. Things have changed for me this Christmas, and I’m certain that this Christmas will change all other Christmases to come.
May you experience true peace and joy this season, despite what the world is offering you.