Monday, December 19, 2016

Putting Christmas in the Corner

I've been attending a Catholic school for the past year and a half, and through thick and thin, Christmas is always made to be a grand celebration for the college. Our chapel is always gloriously decorated with garlands of pine and twinkling Christmas trees; an angelic choir performance is scheduled at the end of the semester to ring in the coming season; a nativity set is yearly placed under the light of one of our most intricate stained glass windows at the front entrance; dining areas are adorned with hanging snowflakes, and the cafeteria staff are made to wear the shiniest, most obnoxious elf hats as they serve the students; and, the grandest display of the year, a magnificent, elegantly ornamented Christmas tree reaching two stories high is placed in the center of our main rotunda building, greeting each guest and student with holiday mirth as they step through the threshold of our excellent institution.

The tree in particular stands as a symbol of joy and hope across campus--an extraordinarily proportioned reminder that the semester is at a close and the Christmas season is fast approaching. Soon, however, my hopes for campus-wide joy were dashed when the days rolled by and our majestic rotunda tree never appeared. Now, the tree was only one indicator amongst the factors of somber faces, tired eyes, and hopeless dispositions never dissipating as the semester came to a close, but somehow the absence of the massive pine felt the most telling that something was off.

Day after day, I searched for that tree, until one day, shortly before I was to return home for break, I ventured to the second floor of the rotunda. My heart sank: there, pushed into a corner of the room, was our school Christmas tree, meek in comparison to the original, delicately decorated and set in the one place where few may see it. Some told me budget cuts had caused the massive tree to stay hidden this year, but I ventured to think that some wanted that behemoth symbol of the season to stay stored away. I couldn't help but think that some wanted the tiny replacement--wanted something that could easily be pushed to the side so that people could focus on other things, like finals, work, the election, the commercial Christmas glistening off the elf hats in the cafeteria. After all, isn't that how you and I sometimes think about the holiday, too?

For most families, especially in ones with special needs, the holidays might mean giving your all, putting all your strength toward making a great experience for the family and putting other things in the corner, things like sleep, bills, sanity, joy, or even Christmas itself. Have you ever placed the nativity in a corner in order to focus on medical conditions, scraping up cash for presents, making the tidiest house for a dinner party, hanging up the nicest lights to show up the neighbors, or creating the Hollywood "ideal" Christmas for your family? Have you been too busy with other priorities to remember why you celebrate this time of year?

The Lord cries out to us and our busy holidays, asks us, "Does a young woman forget to put on her jewels? Does a bride forget to put on her bridal attire? But my people have forgotten me for more days than can even be counted." (Jeremiah 2:32, NET).

Christ is the reason for this season, and if we don't bring the miraculous hope of Christ into our holiday priorities, then what are we celebrating for? Christ's birth represents the ultimate hope; the birth of salvation for all of us; the coming of a King who promises that, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away," (Revelation 21:4, NIV). If this is the prosperous future which God promises through Christ Jesus, then why do we live out the holidays in the ways of the "old order of things"? 

We focus on being tough for our families and providing for others by our own strength. We think about the hustle, the hassle, the performance and the razzle dazzle, but none of these things promise the joy of Christ. Now, we can have these elements as part of our celebration, but when Christ is not at the center of your season, then we have lost the reason for our season, and when we lose that reason, our joy and happiness in Christ's coming is lost to us too. 

Please, do remember to put up the tree and the decorations, and make the holiday as magical for your beautiful family as you like, but when you look at the star or the angel atop your tree, remember that that star and angel came for Christ, the God who gave Himself flesh so that he may enter your holiday, die for you, and rise again so that you may never feel the crushing pain and stress of human hurts and hassles ever again. 

In Matthew 6:33, it reads, "...Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV). Remember that Jesus is at the center of your holiday--at the center of your life: all other things, you needn't worry about. Jesus was born to take your worries, struggles, and sins. Remember His sacrifice, take Him out from the corner, and let His love be where your hope and holiday rests. 

Pray: This year, Father, I will not place you in the far off corner of my Christmas. You are my Provider and my Salvation in all things, including in this holiest of holidays. May I remember to keep You at the center of my Christmas, remembering and relying on You to bring glory to this season and to my family. Amen.

~Alexandra Dittrich

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