Can you remember as a child the anticipation you felt as Christmas approached? It was such an exciting time of year. For some reason, adults seemed to be a little happier and less fussy than usual. Music filled the air, packages were under the tree, secrets were being whispered from person to person. Sometimes the excitement would build until you would think you were going to burst.
Perhaps we have since discarded that kind of anticipation as just a childish fantasy; but I hope not, for it isn’t altogether without scriptural precedent. For example, there is the meeting between the Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth. Mary had come from her home in Nazareth into the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth. Both women are pregnant. Elizabeth is to give birth to John the Baptist, and Mary will become the mother of our Lord. The house where they met was absolutely alive with excitement. To put it into human terms, those two women were looking forward to Christmas, the first Christmas.
A lot of Christmases have come and gone since Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We live in a world where there is an over-supply of sadness and a critical shortage of joy. Look around; you can see it everywhere. How many people do you know whom you regard as being genuinely happy? Or what percentage of your hours and days are characterized by a genuine sense of joy?
An honest answer to either of those questions would probably reveal how badly we need the Christmas message. It is a time when, at least for a little while, we are confronted and challenged by the concept of joy. The decorations are bright and beautiful. The music is happy. Smiles seem to come a little easier and stay a little longer.
This, of course, is not to say that all of our problems are solved or forgotten. They are not. We still have them, and we still know it. So did Mary and Elizabeth. All of their heartaches were not behind them. Elizabeth’s baby would eventually have his head cut off and served to a decadent, drunken crowd. Mary’s baby would live 33 years and then be nailed to a cross.
Those two women still had problems. Their hearts would literally break within them. But as they looked forward to that first Christmas, they were able to understand that God is bigger than all of their problems.
Do you have some problems this Christmas? That’s not all you have. You also have a lot of good things. I wonder if we could let the good loom larger than the bad. Understand that God is at work in your life, and in this world, and that He is bigger than all your problems. We might even catch enough of the spirit of Christmas joy that we could carry it with us over into the coming year. That’s a very real possibility; and for that reason, we should look forward to the real meaning of Christmas. This Christmas let us celebrate the reality that God is with us.