While driving home the other evening, having been to a Christmas gathering filled with happy songs and smiling faces, I received a text from a friend — a plea for prayer for her family, as they’d just lost a loved one. Suddenly, the echoes of “Jingle Bells” diminished, replaced with petitions for a grieving son’s and daughters’ peace.

And I’m left pondering.
Many are suffering, and Christmastime — with all the expectations we place on ourselves, as well as sense from those around us — can be the most difficult season for people. For those who are sick. Financially strapped. Those who’ve suffered loss. Or feel lost themselves.

The Season’s true purpose, too, gets lost in let-down — with comparisons, price tags, and hype. The dirty, bloody birth of a Lamb forgotten in the faux festoons of life — into which we’re too often entangled… where we all too often lose our way.

Jesus came to guide.
His simple beginning set a standard.
The dirt beneath the manger — a foreshadowing of the sin he’d come to cleanse, as he hung from a tree.
His bloody entrance as a Baby foretelling his purpose — to pardon from the cross our dirt by the shedding of his blood from nail-pierced hands and feet.

Mary, his mother, was there too — at the beginning, as well as when it was “finished” (though thankfully not THE END) –pondering much and treasuring moments in her heart. Perhaps she, like us, fought earthly expectation — battling her flesh while trying to find joy, knowing her Son had come to save through sacrifice. Likely she proclaimed — even when choked with sobs — the words from the Holy Scriptures, spoken by her Joseph’s distant relative David —

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, for my expectation comes from Him (Ps. 62:5).

Oh, if only our expectations would come from Him — God alone. How different Christmas might be —

How much more simple, despite complexity.
How much more sweet, even with the taste of tears.
How much more sincere in a sea of artificial.

If only we could put on Jesus daily —
Swaddle ourselves in him.
Step out our doors into a desperate, hurting world —

Sacrifice as he sacrificed.
Give as he gave.
Speak as he spoke.
Love as he loved.

Christmas might be experienced differently —
No longer a season but a lifestyle,
Not just twelve days but twelve months…
With just a shift of one’s expectations and a change of attire.

Clothed in Christ, expecting miracles.
Living to love because of the Love that came down.
Because of Jesus.

Yes — because of Jesus, this one who passed recently — tragic though it may seem — passed into Eternity and heard, as though for the first time, in a new way —

O come all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of angels;
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

(O Come, All Ye Faithful — composer unknown)

This dear sister now sees the Prince of Peace face to face.
I pray for her children that each will experience the peace that passes all earthy understanding (Phil. 4:7), even as they mourn this loss, and at Christmastime.

The message of this carol is for us, here and now —
In our joy, as ministers of Joy,
As well as in our sorrow, as recipients of Comfort.

And may our expectation — at Christmas and always — come from Him.

O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Dear Jesus, please help us keep our focus on you and on you alone–at Christmas and all throughout the year. Amen.