‘Tis the season for a flurry of busyness.
There are decorations to put out, countless concerts and school programs to attend, presents to purchase and wrap, and special holiday recipes to prepare. The list goes on and on. It can be overwhelming.
I will admit I might have been called a Grinch at times. My children may have even accused me of hating Christmas. I don’t hate Christmas. I take offense that my heart would be considered ‘two sizes too small’, but I really dislike all the obligations of Christmas. They are forced upon me simply because the calendar says it is December. Should I be excited that the next few weeks are going to mean non-stop events, sensory overload, calorie overload, and generally wreak havoc on my life?
I experienced something last year that has given me a new perspective on this season and helped me appreciate the true joy Christmas can bring. While visiting a thousand-year-old cathedral in England, I attended a Christingle service. The origins of this tradition can be traced back to the German Moravian Church in 1747. Combining Christmas and an old Scot word for fire, Christingle translated means “Christ-light”. Bishop John de Watteville wanted children to learn about the birth of Christ and understand what it tangibly means for their lives.
Each person was given an orange holding a candle with a red ribbon wrapped around it. Four sticks protruded from each side of the orange with bits of fruit and sweets on them. The orange represents the world, and the candle is Christ, the light of the world. The red ribbon reminds us of His blood shed for our salvation. The four sticks symbolize the seasons of life, and the sweet gifts God gives us.
As I held the orange while participating in the historic liturgy of the service, I felt a profound sense of connection to Christians who have gone before me. Our God is the “same yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8. The service I experienced was conceived and practiced almost three hundred years ago by a man who wanted children to understand the true joy that came to our world in the person of Christ. His desire was for children to know that because of Christ’s birth, we have “this hope of our salvation” Romans 8:24. As a teacher, I can certainly relate to that.
The carols I sang that night had been passed down through the centuries as well. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was written by English peasants over five hundred years ago in response to the somber melodies sung in Latin by officials of the Church of England. The commoners believed the power of Christ and what his arrival meant to the world should be expressed with liveliness and joy, not lethargy and melancholy.
The lyrics of Joy to the World were penned by Isaac Watts in 1674. He also found the music of the Church of England to be monotonous and uninspired and wanted church music to be more meaningful to the common man. While reading and meditating on Psalm 98, he wrote the words to what has become one of our most beloved Christmas anthems.
I have a heritage of faith shared with countless believers who have gone before me. The good news of Christ’s birth is irrepressible. Because He came in earthly form and bore the weight of my sin, I can have a relationship with God today. The God who made all of heaven and earth, the Creator who spoke the stars and galaxies into existence deigned to put on flesh and walk among us that we might know Him. It is a story that has endured through the ages and has to be told.
That truth makes this Grinch’s heart grow not just ‘three sizes’, but swell with a “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” 1 Peter 1:8.
May the same joy be yours this holiday season.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with JOY and peace because you trust in him. Romans 15:13