I’ve been thinking a lot about what Christmas was like as a kid.
Everything was so magical. I remember being so excited about the first snowfall, shopping, presents, Christmas programs, and angel costumes.
And the memory that sticks out the most in my mind, other than getting my dream Barbie the Christmas I was eight, is the moment when I first began to grasp the point of Christmas.
I remember standing in some kind of Christmas choir, singing a song about the name “Immanuel”, and what it meant, and suddenly being struck by the fact that “Immanuel” means “God with us.”
God with us.
I remember feeling the significance of those words without fully understanding the meaning. (I still don’t fully understand…)
And for whatever reason, this Christmas, those words are staying with me.
God with us.
I watched “The Nativity Story” for the first time this year, and what impacted me the most was what it meant to not have “God with us”. I don’t really know a lot about the culture of that time, but the bit that I know about, and the bit that is portrayed in the movie, gives some idea as to what kind of a hard life the Israelites were living at that time. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with that kind of oppression – to constantly experience fear, anger, pain and death, but all the time waiting, expecting…because God promised that there was Someone coming who would change everything, forever.
I know that there are people living with those same kinds of things in other parts of the world, even today, but there’s one big difference – God is with us. Not everyone knows that, and not everyone accepts that, but it does change everything.
And all of a sudden, “God with us” means something huge that goes far beyond Christmas. God with us every day.
This last September, Ben and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. And it was great to have a day set aside to remember and celebrate and put significance in that, but I found myself trying to conjure up more emotions than I actually felt. I love being married to Ben so much every single day that our anniversary was just a continued celebration of what we enjoy every other day of the year.
And today I’ve been wondering if my lack of a “Christmas-y” feeling is not that I’m missing the point, but if it has more to do with the fact that God is with us every single day, and Christmas, rather than being some kind of life-changing, highly emotional day, is just a continued celebration of what we enjoy every other day of the year.
Right now, our girls don’t really get that. Anika is still at the very beginning of figuring out what a personal relationship with God means. Praying every night at bedtime has not become a conversation with a close and loving Father. As her parent, I’m trying to bridge that gap – to teach her as much as she’s ready for, to model that relationship for her in my own life.
And at Christmas, I see it as my job as a parent to help make this time magical, so that as she grows, this season will become a time to reflect on what it means to have God with us.
So I will not stop baking cookies, and decorating the house, and playing Christmas music, and everything else that makes this time special and different.
But I think that I will stop trying to feel a “certain way”. I will stop feeling guilty for not catching the entire significance of the birth of Christ, because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to comprehend all of it. And that’s okay. But I will continue to strive for growth and more of an understanding day by day, year by year.
Because it’s a day. It’s a great day, but it’s still a day. I’m inexpressibly thankful that God is with me, every single day.
And that’s something to think about all the time, not just Christmas day.