I have a love-hate relationship with the Christmas season. On the one hand, I love the times spent with family and friends, and I definitely love the gifts and feasts. But I also dread the stress of holiday traffic both on the roads and in the malls, the stress of having to find the right gifts and having to plan parties left and right. In the midst of all the craziness, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. That’s why I always have to fight for it. Even if it means simplifying parties or moving reunions to January. Even if it means forgetting to buy a couple of gifts here and there. Because Christmas is not about the bells and whistles and parties and gifts.
To me, Christmas is about HOPE.
My all-time favorite line from a Christmas song is from “O Holy Night”. In the song, you’ll hear the line,
“The thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices.”
I can’t imagine a better way to describe hope. Hope awakens the soul and fills it with joyful anticipation. I’m a fan of hope. Because in reality, the world can be a difficult place to live in, and often times, one can grow weary. And sometimes, all we need is a little hope to get by.
The thing with hope is that it’s only as good as where you put your hope. You can put your hope in the people around you, you can put your hope on your skills, education, or past achievements, you can put your hope in the government, in a program, in money. The list goes on.
As for me, nine years ago, I made a choice to put my hope in Jesus. Not because someone told me to do this. I made the choice–and I make the choice every day with deeper conviction–because of how I came to know Him.
When I say I put my hope in Jesus, I’m saying that I put my hope in the One I called out to nine years ago, when I wasn’t sure if He was real, But if He was real, I told Him that He needed to save me because I was at my lowest of lows (and He did). I put my hope in the One who took a girl who felt unloved and forgotten for most of her life and surrounded her with the purest love from people with the biggest hearts. I put my hope in the One who comforted my heart in the loneliest and most difficult days. I put my hope in the One who forgives me and gives me a fresh new start every time I mess up. I put my hope in the One who releases me from shame. I put my hope in the one who gives me the courage and confidence to do the difficult things. I put my hope in the One who continually sustains and provides for me, and I put my hope in the One who always gives me opportunities that I never thought were possible. I put my hope in the One who gives my life purpose and meaning. I put my hope in the One gives me the grace to be kind and patient when I feel like acting otherwise. I put my hope in the One who gives me the grace to be selfless, even if left to my own devices, I would probably be selfish most of the time!
I put my hope in the One who saved a marriage of two people who meant a lot to me, when it looked like it was going to fall apart. And over the course of several years, it was evident–and even the couple would attest to it–that their marriage was saved by God. Every time I doubt, I remember how He saved that marriage and I remember that He is real. I put my hope in the One who answers my prayers–sometimes even the most trivial ones, just to remind me that He’s listening.
Without Him, my life would not be what is today. It may not even exist. You see, those who know me know that I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t sleep around. When I was younger and going through tough times, you wouldn’t see me getting drunk, wasted, or high. My coping mechanism (a,k.a. addiction) of choice was depression. I would just hide in my room, cry, and sink further into a dark hole of destruction. While other people found drinking, smoking, or sleeping their problems away to be effective ways numb the pain, I was wondering what it would be like to end my life. In other words, if I didn’t have Jesus in my life, if He didn’t heal me and love me into wholeness, I probably would have killed myself by now because it seemed like the only desirable option. True story.
In other words, I put my hope in God who has loved me so gently, so personally, so evidently. I have so much to look back on in my own life that gives evidence that my God is real, and He came to earth thousands of years ago in the person of Jesus, so that I could experience all of these.
I totally understand that to many people in the world, Christmas is just another holiday to celebrate. But to people like me who have encountered this hope, it’s so much more.
This Christmas is especially meaningful to me because this year is a special year. I’ve gone through quite a lot in my life, and though I won’t claim to have gone through the worst a person could go through, I guess you could say I’ve had my own share of battles that took many, many years to resolve, lessons that took many, many years to learn, and hurts that took many, many years to heal. Since I made the decision to put my faith in Jesus and follow Him in 2007, it’s been quite a rollercoaster of a journey. There are many times I have struggled and doubted and thought I would never heal, but this year…this year is special for me because it’s the first year that I could truly say,
“It is well with my soul.”
Even saying it out loud makes me tear up. It took a long time to get to a place where I could finally say my wounds are healed. I never thought it would even happen. And for those of you who are still in that journey where you don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, let me assure you that if you trust Jesus, the healing will come.
My life is not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. Today I can say my mind and heart are both healthy, and it is the greatest gift I could have asked for this year. I can look back now and see how it happened, but I was never given a step-by-step process that promised that by 2016, I would be okay. Some days I had to work hard, some days I had to endure, some days I had to wait patiently for this healing–all of which would not have been possible without the grace of God. I had to live the journey and trust God through it (and boy, was it difficult when I was in it). And here we are…and there’s more to come. So this year, I celebrate Christmas with a level of gratitude I have never felt before. Because if Jesus never came, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
So that’s what Christmas means to me! :) Merry Christmas! May hope, peace, and joy abound in your life in 2017.