Over the last month or so, my dear friend, Vaneesha, and I have been doing a Christmas devotional each morning. We both felt called to stop and prepare our hearts and minds for the true meaning of Christmas and settle the battle for once and for all: Jesus Christ vs. Santa Claus? Okay, that wasn’t entirely the intention, but for me, it became a question mark. And for the purposes of this blog post, understand that Santa was symbolic of the ‘things’ of the season: gifts, food, busyness, etc.
Growing up, Christmas really meant one thing for me: Awaiting Santa Claus, awaiting the magic of him somehow getting into my house (we didn’t have a chimney), awaiting unwrapping so many presents and sharing a special few hours together very early in the morning with my mom, dad and sister. I was in AWE that Santa Claus was so awesome and loved me so much to bring me all of these presents!!! He totally trumped my parents. I actually may have prayed to him once or twice when I was 6 years old.
And as I grew older, it then turned into the excitement of reconnecting with family and eating the most delicious food of the year (it’s good to be Italian on Christmas) and drinking amazing wine (again, it’s good to be Italian on Christmas). I really felt so lucky to be able to experience this year after year after year and I am sure, even when I was 25 years of age I may have figured out a way to give credit to Santa Claus for the food, family and wine.
Okay, so, needless to say, when I became a Christian (going on five years now!) and started developing a relationship with Jesus, the Christmas season became a bit confusing for me and I started thinking about that jolly old man, with an eyebrow of question raised. Jesus Christ vs. Santa Claus? Naturally, I still wanted to do all the things I had grown up doing and consume my time shopping and buying gifts, desiring to have people in my life experience the excitement that Santa once did for me. But, as I grew closer to God (you know where this is going…), I realized I had been missing something…the celebration of the real reason of Christmas…that Jesus came to die for our sins so that we would have eternal life. I mean, yes, Santa came to give awesome Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbie Houses and an Etch-a-Sketch. But, come on, did he really have anything on Jesus? Hmmm…
It has been challenging for me to shift my mind during this time of year to focus first on Jesus. Of course, the presents, the food, family are also AMAZING gifts from God and God gives us these pleasures to celebrate as well. But in my heart and through the holy spirit, I knew I needed to shift my mind. And one thing that has helped me (and trust me, it’s a work-in-progress and will be for the years to come) has been doing a Christmas devotional each morning with Vaneesha. With that, here are some things I learned over the last month that have helped me settle the battle between Jesus and Santa for once and for all.
I have learned about how God uses the most unexpected, imperfect platforms to produce miracles (Jesus being born in a manger to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem…did you know Bethlehem was deemed a tiny and insignificant town?).
I have learned that God desires us to rejoice. Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
I have learned that God wants us to slow down, live in the moment. We see this happen in the book of Luke (Luke 10:41-42), when Jesus went to eat in the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha spent her time running around cooking, serving dinner, and cleaning. These were all very good things, but “busy” things. Meanwhile, Mary sat in the company of Jesus. When Martha asked Jesus to tell her to work too, He told her, “Mary has chosen what is better.
I am reminded of the example that Mary (virgin Mary, not Mary, the sister of Martha…confusing, I know!) had set when she followed God’s will, said yes, without question (I don’t know about you, but if God told me I would be a virgin, pregnant, in my teens…I’m pretty sure I may respond with a ‘no thank you, God’). Luke 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Her obedience and complete surrender to God is mind-boggling, but awesome and a reminder that I needed to hear.
I am fascinated and in awe thinking of Jesus as a tiny baby and how he entered this earth so humbly, in a manger, no crib, among animals and straw (Luke 2:6-7). He set the example for us THE SECOND he was born. Humble. I have heard my friends talk about their delivery experience at Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern and one described it as the Taj Mahal to deliver babies. Interesting juxtaposition, ha?!
I am reminded that Jesus was born for one purpose – so that man no more may die. 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
I am graciously reminded to be still (especially during this time of year). Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. Here’s an excerpt taken from our devotional that I LOVE: When you are still before God, you better understand that whatever you are facing, whatever your day has been like, you can completely rest in the fact that God is God. He’s awesome and amazing and sovereign. He loves us more than we can imagine and He’s got things under control.
And in the midst of such tragedies this holiday season, I, like I am sure so many of you, were left confused, saddened and heart-broken. To be honest with you, I am still processing and have intentionally silenced myself as I am not sure really how I feel or what to say. But, I did want to share the below which also came direct from our devotional.
That’s life, isn’t it? No matter how perfect we try to paint the canvas of our lives, there will always be something extra put on it that wasn’t in our minds when we dreamed it. Something that cramps our perfect picture. Something that breaks our heart.
A relationship that ended.
A loved one who died prematurely.
The betrayal of a friend.
Did you know that God isn’t surprised by the interruptions in our lives? In fact, nothing surprises Him. Don’t mistake bad things happening in your life as His loss of control. No, this is not about His ability but about His sovereignty.
While we may wish that bad things would never happen in our lives, they will happen. Jesus said we’d have trouble (John 16:33), but He also promised that He’d calm us in the midst of it (John 14:16). So, no matter where we are in life, whether we expected to be on the path we are on or not, rest assured, that our God can make broken things beautiful.
And similar to Mary (in the story about of Martha and Mary), I didn’t realize what God wanted me to learn through the three wise men. The three wise men are a great example of what complete submission to God looks like. The moment they saw the star they dropped everything they were doing and embarked on a long journey that was most likely difficult at times. The men had no idea where they were going, but placed their complete trust in a star to lead them. They devoted everything to seeking Him no matter the cost. Just like the three men in this song followed a shining star to see Jesus when he was born, if we submit ourselves to God, He will direct our paths and be a perfect guide for our lives. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of my all-time favorite bible verses and I love how God always ends up putting that in front of me 🙂
So, there it is. For the past month I set out on this adventure and I am pretty sure I found my answer: Jesus Christ 🙂 Sorry, Santa, you are pretty cool and nice, but, after doing my homework I now know where you stand. Growing up I did know bits and pieces of Jesus’ birth, amidst my obsession with Santa. But now, being able to study it and understand the why behind it makes me filled with gratitude, joy and even more love for Jesus. Yes, family, food and presents are certainly some of greatest gifts during the Christmas season. But there is no greater gift than the birth of Jesus!
Merry Christmas and happy birthday, Jesus.
Devotional credit to http://www.youversion.com (Carols: A Christmas Devotional)