I was having one of those “discussions” with myself the other day, the kind where you are in an internal debate. There is no one else privy to your conversation; it is merely you talking to you. I’m one of those people whose facial expressions coincide with the dialogue taking place in my head. So, I’m sure that on this particular day anyone who had watched me, as I pushed my shopping cart through Target, would have wondered if I was having an emotional breakdown as I went from scowling to nodding my head to grinning slightly and then back to scowling.
My thoughts went something like this: I am so tired of the insanity of this time of year; doesn’t it seem that it is just one more overdone, overcommitted, overdemanding holiday thrown at every overwrought woman pushing their shopping carts near me? But I do love this season: the lights, decorations, music, and celebrating the birth of Christ. But is that what all this stuff I’m looking at means? I continued this back-and-forth discussion on the merits and failings of the season for the next 45 minutes of shopping.
I have always loved Christmas. But as I walked through this conversation, I checked off the pressures that come with the occasion. There’s the decorating to be done, the meals to prepare, the parties to attend, the gifts to purchase… What do they have to do with the origin? The birth of a Savior?
I realized, in the midst of my self-awareness therapy, that each of these “demands” can have a lot to do with why we celebrate in the first place. All it takes is a little perspective—like so many other things in life.
If we take a deeper look at the things we do during this holiday season, it can bring a little bit of heaven to earth.
We decorate to create beauty. C. S. Lewis often referred to this world as the Shadowlands, a mere reflection of what is. I realize that the beauty of heaven, the future world in which we will reside, is entirely beyond my comprehension. But, as I sit in my living room with the twinkling lights, ornaments, and ribbons I worked so hard to place on the tree, I love the feeling it gives me. I have decorated my home from the front lawn to the back to celebrate a day that means everything to me. Should not a celebration of such worth in this world be adorned? I’m sure that in the world to come our breath will be taken away by the beauty of the celebration in which we will participate.
We cook the meals, clean the home, and throw the parties to serve those we love. The cooking, cleaning, and caring for our family seemingly stretches us beyond our capacity—at times making us feel like Gumby with arms and legs pulled beyond human ability.
But, what is at the heart of all this extra effort you give? You desire to love well, to emulate the very essence of the God who walked this earth. In the 13th chapter of the book of John is a magnificent picture of how Jesus demonstrated his love. Shortly after entering the streets of Jerusalem and honored as the King of the Jews, he laid his cloak aside and began washing the feet of his disciples. This act was nearly unthinkable for those with whom he walked. Through this, he was not suggesting that we should do all things for all people. That isn’t the service that was on display in the life of our Savior. He washed the feet of his followers, his nearest and dearest companions in his life. When we show the same selfless love to our family in this season, it is a reflection of the character of the One whose birth we are celebrating. A little bit of heaven is seen on earth when we show those we love that we serve them because Christ served us first.
During this time of year, we see and become more sensitive to the needs of others. I love that we are reminded of those in need. Whether it is the Salvation Army kettle in front of Walmart, the shoebox campaign before Thanksgiving or the Toys for Tots bins placed strategically in stores, the reality that the challenges of others are more significant and greater than ours is on display.
Several years ago, I worked with the Salvation Army on a song written by one of my artists entitled, “Heart to God, Hand to Man.” It was then that I was captivated by this passionate phrase that was and is the central theme to their cause: “Heart to God,” when fully realized, creates a desire to offer a “Hand to Man.” The Christ Child, born fully man and fully God, came to earth to meet the needs of those around him. From healing sicknesses and hearts to delighting in children and providing food miraculously for thousands, he showed us how to care for others. When we do the same in this season, once again, we are bringing heaven to earth.
We give gifts—purposefully selected, planned for, purchased, and, at times, hastily wrapped for someone who has meaning in our lives. But our gifts pale in comparison to the one given to us. Isaiah 9:6 tells us of this truth, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” The gifts we give reflect the gift of a Father, who gave to us a Child we celebrate, who left the comfort of his kingdom and the position he held in order to meet the deepest need of every one of us. When we get out of our comfortable homes to offer a mere reflection of his great gift, we once again bring a little bit of heaven to earth.
As we await the break of Christmas morning and anticipate the delight of this day, may it remind us of the hope we have for another day that we hold dear. On that day, the clouds will part and the Christ Child will return as King, to heal all hurt, right all wrongs, and gather us to celebrate with him as our hope becomes real and our faith is fully seen. Until then, let’s celebrate here, let’s celebrate now, and by doing so bring a little bit of heaven to this earth.