Where are you Christmas?
Dr. RB McFee
“Where are you Christmas Why can't I find you Why have you gone away Where is the laughter You used to bring me”
From “Where are you Christmas?” Written by James Horner, Mariah Carey, Wilber Jennings, and performed by Faith Hill
We are almost there….Santa is filling his sleigh, the reindeer are munching on protein bars, the elves are doing last minute toy building, the angels are rehearsing their refrains of “Joy to the World,” fireplaces are being readied, and cookies are going into the oven.
Christmas is, like the beloved Holiday song extols, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” And who could argue with Andy Williams, right?! Just ask most children. From the moment the first Christmas carol is played on the radio, and the first holiday ads appear on smart phones and televisions, kids go into yuletide overdrive with enthusiasm. Their reaction to Christmas is infections, their joy contagious.
As it fast approaches what thoughts come to mind as you await Noel 2020? Does the mention of the word “Christmas” conjure up childhood memories, visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, happy times? Are feelings of carefree innocence, excitement, the youthful abandon of joy and anticipation filling you? Think the character of Fred in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Moreover it is a time to be filled with the sense of amazement in what our God did for us – coming into the world as a mortal so we could better relate to Him, see His love, feel His love.
After all, the Scriptures say so….
“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance.´
So will you go to bed this Christmas Eve with the restlessness of joyous expectancy for something magical, special, amazing, and wondrous to happen? Are you going to greet Jesus’ birthday with a happy or heavy heart? Does Christmas still captivate you? Does it compel you towards a stronger relationship with Christ? Are you transformed in the day?
At this Christmas do we await with the same anticipation of a child expecting Santa and cool gifts, the coolest gift of all – our rebirth in Christ, and Jesus’ second coming.
To be sure Christmas is supposed to be a magical time. A time when the feelings of youthful exuberance are rekindled within us, as the joy of the Season infects and inspires us.
And for many adults the power of this Season continues to rekindle a childlike wonder and awe about everything Christmas – the Bethlehem star, the Nativity, the angels, the Magi, how God became a baby – Jesus, the story of Santa and his reindeer – all of it comes alive to them. Their inner child continues to reveal all the faith and belief and raw joy possible in one person. These folks approach the Holiday Season with a veneration and devotion that can inspire.
Then there’s that proverbial “but,” that you knew was coming. As people of faith we know Jesus is already born. How could such an event be anything but transformative, or full of unbridled happiness?
As Christ taught us, we must be mindful of the least among us, carrying burdens. Because for many amongst us, there’s a want to still be full of joy, but find the spiritual gas tank running on fumes, and searching for God’s filling station, end up wondering with tired soul “where are you Christmas, why can’t I find you?”
At this time of year, some find it difficult to experience the joy, or recognize the blessings of the Season amidst their sorrow and loss. Instead of singing “Joy to the World” or “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” the only refrain they can sing remains “Where are you Christmas?”
We think back to happier times, to the “laughter Christmas used to bring” and quickly go from the smiles of happy reminiscences, to the tears of reality as we mourn the loss of loved ones, or face another Christmas without spouse or sibling, companion, or parent or child. We think about the medical report. Or the financial challenge. Or the isolation that comes with age, or from a pandemic, or living far from loved ones. And the refrain remains “Where are you Christmas?”
Even for those among us who spiritually can walk on water with Jesus most of the year, we find Christmas a time when the storm overtakes us, and we start to fall into the water. Amidst the carols and Christmas movies, the Advent wreaths and Christmas cards, thoughts of health, or family no longer with us, financial worries, loneliness, or a combination of all of these converge and overwhelm us; they crowd out the joy that is the promise of this holy time of year. We wonder “where are you Christmas?”
For some in our midst, as we enter the Nativity scene, folks caught up in the storm, and have lost sight of the Christ-child, and the miracle of The Nativity. The clouds, or tears have blocked our view of the Star, and the noise has filtered out the Heavenly Host rejoicing.
It is not about lost faith. It is about hope. It is about experiencing a blue Christmas, instead of celebrating a true Christmas. And as members of a faith family we can recognize the hurts of those in our midst who keep asking “Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you?”
I know. Been there, done that, making the t-shirt.
It is in those moments, especially at Christmas, when we find ourselves surrounded by darkness, with the storm overtaking us, like Peter when he stopped walking on water that we need to look upwards to Jesus, and ask to be saved. We need to humble ourselves, placing our brokenness at the foot of our God, and ask our Heavenly Father – “where are you Christmas?”
It is these times I think back to the angels in Luke bringing tidings of “joy.” Something we all need.
The other day I read a short story in the book God Wink Christmas Stories – Discover the most wondrous gifts of the Season,” by Squire Rushnell and Louise Duart. In it the word “Joy” was treated like an acronym, spelled out for Christians as “Jesus, others, you.” So maybe “where are you Christmas” is in focusing on Jesus and His mission, His transforming love, looking at Him and not the spiritual mirror of painful sadness. Maybe it is in thinking of others, and discovering they might need some joy, too.
Maybe we find our joy in helping others.
In the book, I heard God laughing, author Matthew Kelly reminds us that “the daily habit of prayer leads us to recognize God’s presence in every aspect and moment of our lives.” He goes on to say “to pray is to live in the presence of God…and as we commit to do this, our spiritual sense begin to awaken, and we are more aware of God at our side throughout the day, in fact the more easily we recognize His presence in every moment as we build our connection with God.”
He is correct. If we start a conversation with God, making Him our focus and not the Blue Christmas trying to emerge from, ask Him “where are you Christmas?” Tell him you want to feel the childlike wonder and awe of the Season again, to be reborn again in the power of Christmas, in the Presence of Christ.
“For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”
2 Corinthians 4:6
As I entered authentically in prayer, throughout the day, into the evening, and week, He answered my question “Where are you Christmas?”….
“Where are you Christmas?” It was in the hug from a friend/colleague, and compassion from a caring physician “Dr. B,” who revealed Christmas in his kindness at a time when I needed it most.
“Where are you Christmas?” It was in the hearts of everyone who decorated their homes – whether a solitary candle in the window, or a yard full of animations. They revealed Christmas in the light they shared with me on my ride home, and a world desperately in need of it.
“Where are you Christmas?” It was in the medical report of a close friend whose cancer treatments seem to be working. Miracles, even temporary ones reveal Christmas as the hope of life – here and in Heaven.
“Where are you Christmas?” It was in the walks and talks with my Baptism sisters “SL” and “BJ.” Steadfast in their faith, and childlike in their awe of the Almighty, their example reflects a spirit open to Emmanuel and the spirit of Christmas.
“Where are you Christmas?” It is in the smile from a stranger. After all, it was Christmas that drew strangers to the Holy Family - from a hillside in Bethlehem, and far off lands across the vast expanse of the Arabian Peninsula.
“Where are you Christmas?” It was in the prayer chain email where we focus on the needs of others as a faith family that cares about each other, as we give our concerns over to God. These reveal the optimism for renewal and healing that Christ promises.
“Where are you Christmas?” It is in the togetherness we will feel as a faith family Christmas Eve and Christmas Night, assembling at church – outdoors, but together in celebration of our Savior and His healing power, His love, and our love for each other
“Where are you Christmas?” Is in God’s artwork – sunrises, sunsets, red cardinals flying in blue skies
“Where are you Christmas?” It was in the phone calls and cards, and emails, and food deliveries from members of our faith family shared with shut-ins and the sick or lonely. These reveal the selflessness and love that is the very essence of Christmas.
“Where are you Christmas?” It is in the face of the Salvation Army kettle worker, and soup kitchen volunteer, and the person who brings a cup of coffee to someone down on their luck. Christ came so we would tend to others, including the least among us, and this is the heart of Christmas.
“Where are you Christmas?” It is up in our night sky, where this Solstice God timed two planets to appear as one, reminding us a Star that appeared two thousand years ago, when His love for us was so great He became Jesus - Emmanuel.
“Where are you Christmas?” It is inside all our hearts waiting to come out and play, waiting to transform us, if we want to recapture the joy and wonder, awe, and restoration, if we are willing to look beyond the pain, and seek out the promise that is in Christ, His birth, and His Presence in our lives.
“Where are you Christmas?” It is in our ability to make someone else’s life brighter. It is us letting others know they matter. It is in our ability to spread the joy of Christmas to others who might wonder “Where are you Christmas?”
“Where are you Christmas?” It is when we allow ourselves to be reborn in Christ
“Where are you Christmas?” In a manger where we are reminded of God’s love incarnate
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
When we look at the world through our disappointments instead of God’s promise, we limit our ability to heal. To quote Rushnell and Duart God wants us to have the faith of a child who believes that God has no limits. When you do, His gifts await you. He goes on to say “In the same manner that you let your earthly father carry your burdens when you were a child, allow God to carry your burdens now. He wants to relieve your stress and give you strength, and peace.”
Light will come into the darkest strongholds. Nothing can keep His love and light from us if we let it in. God forever answers the question “Where are you Christmas?” even if He may not take away the sorrow, or the loss, or the pain, or the challenges. But He will remind us through Jesus, Christmas is a time of power and grace, love, and transformation, and how Christ can bring us restoration and rebirth, healing and hope – in essence “joy” in the midst of chaos if we shift our focus to the One who alone can bring us Peace.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”
“Where are you Christmas?´ Right here, right now waiting for you to feel the love of God, and the love of your faith family.
Wishing you and your family Merry-Love-filled-Blessed Christmas