Some of my close friends found it difficult to celebrate Christmas this year. Last year, I, too, found myself dreading the season. Normally, I really enjoy seeing the coloured lights, attending the various carol concerts, and tasting the mouth-watering treats that accompany the Christmas season. For too many reasons to list, in the quiet moments, I often found a quiet tear trickling down my cheeks when I would think of family and friends I wouldn't be able to see over the holiday. I celebrated for as long as I could, but when I started crossing off the days between Christmas and the New Year, I knew that it was time to take down my decorations.
I removed nearly 200 red balls of various sizes from the tree, yet the tree itself stayed in the corner for several more days. The grey days and long nights without twinkling lights convinced me that I could wait a few more days before banishing it for another year.
Maybe my reluctance to pack away the decorations stemmed from the fact that I hadn't yet experienced my "Christmas moment", the "ah-ha" moment when I realized once again the significance of God who loved each one of us so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus, as the first Christmas gift.
With a sense of great reluctance, I started putting away the small table-top tree that occupied a corner of my dining room. After putting away the delicate angels and gold glass balls, I took down three gold-coloured words, "Hope", "Joy", and "Love", that I had hung on the tree with gold ribbon. I paused and looked up references for each word in my Bible.
Hope: Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6 NIV 2011)
Joy: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV 2011)
Love: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19 NIV 2011)
Wonder of wonders, I thought, as I added the three gold words to the box of Christmas ornaments. Christ came to bring these gifts — hope, joy, and love — to all of us — gifts that He keeps on giving, not just for Christmas, but the whole year through.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, with grateful hearts, we give You thanks for giving us hope and joy and love — gifts that go beyond the decorations of Christmas, gifts that go with us every day of the year. Amen.