By Gena Anderson
Doesn’t Christmas feel strange this year? The usual large celebrations are dwindling down to small gatherings, if they are happening at all. Things I excitedly anticipated in the past are either cancelled or so unrecognizable this year that it’s hard to imagine enjoying the experience at all. This year has felt divisive and isolating, and it seems the holiday season will be no different, as covid-19 cases rise and we all try to keep each other safe.
As I write this my family is wrapping up Thanksgiving week having spent no time with anyone outside of our little family. I’ve witnessed others experience losses this year and the season that usually offers peace, reminders of hope and salvation offered through the gift of a Savior, seems to be lacking. Reflecting on this year, and the last few years for me and my family, it appears that joy is slowly being stripped away.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-11, NKJV)
I think about this passage and the message the angel was trying to convey. Good news of great joy, brought to God’s people in the form of a newborn. That baby came to save God’s people, but he was born through painful labor of a virgin woman. Mary was scandalized by being pregnant when she was unmarried, and when the day came for this great birth of the newborn king the only place mankind offered her was a barn. When we look from her perspective, that year could have felt to Mary like 2020 does to us. Her introduction into marriage and motherhood being nothing like she had imagined, one could easily see how the joy those experiences usually bring could be overshadowed and underwhelming. Yet, Luke 1:47 tells us Mary rejoiced in this experience. Somehow she knew what God was doing in her and bringing to the world through her was so good that she chose to be joyful.
Things are not what they used to be, and for many they are not what we envisioned. Before we get caught up in the losses and challenges that this season brings, let’s learn from Mary’s rejoicing. Maybe the layers of our lives that are being stripped away are part of a refinement process to reconcile us with our creator. Perhaps the loss of experiential joy is bringing forth the experience of pure, simple, raw joy that only comes from being alone with Jesus.
Part of me will miss the fun things we cannot do this year, but I am learning to see the pure joy that comes from allowing God to be front and center. I am praying that friends who have experienced painful losses will be soothed by the comfort of a savior. As salve is to a raw wound, so is Jesus to the hurting soul. This year is different, and I am starting to see we have the opportunity to be different because of our experience.
This Christmas, I pray you experience true, raw, and pure joy.