On a scale describing Christmas Spirit, I definitely fall more into the "Grinch" range. I know this is egregious to many of you, but I've always had a hard time connecting to the Christmas spirit. Commercialism can be a difficult pill to swallow. Things like placing a tree indoors, or socks on your mantle tend to confound me. But most of all- I hate Christmas music. As a person who thrives in variety and change, the things that become repetitious begin to lose their enchantment quickly. Bells jingling, snow men, Santa Claus–all of these things grew boring.
These things grew old because they didn't have any meaning to me. But now, as a recovering Grinch with a revitalized heart for Christmas, I've learned how to sway my mind to desire a season dedicated to remembering. My affections have been renewed for Christmas because my gaze is directed toward a manger, not the North Pole. I look at the shepherds, not elvish helpers. I am fixated on Christ, not Santa.
For so long I conflated "reason" for the season and the "methods" of the season, and for me there is simply no pleasure in cultural Christmas. But what I do find incomprehensively joyful is thinking on the Incarnation, our lowborn Messiah, the Son of David.
Despite my deepest aversion to Christmas music, I've found a new fondness for Christmas hymns. And now, this is what I attempt to fill my mind with during this season; if I am to battle the brute of hating Christmas, I must rely on music to redirect my eyes heavenward. When I hear the words penned by lyricists throughout the ages, my heart is joined with theirs by thinking on what they have reveled in. When I listen to the loveliness they remark on, my mind is rewired to also find the subject matter, that is Christ, to be beautiful. One song in particular has done much to rip out the bitter root in my heart surrounding Christmas: Come and Stand Amazed
by The Modern Post.
"Come and stand amazed you people,
See how God is reconciled!
See His plans of love accomplished
See His gift, this newborn child"
This song begins by declaring to the listener that God has accomplished His promise. We do well to remember that the plan for God to redeem His people through the birth and subsequent death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was expressed as early as Genesis 15:3. This plan was foretold by prophets for ages, most notably in Isaiah 53. The gift of the Messiah was long-awaited; there were 400 years of silence from God to Israel before Jesus' birth. Can you imagine the joy of Jesus' first cry out of the womb? The breaking of God's silence after four centuries?
We read in Luke chapter 2 that there was a man named Simeon, who had been promised by God that he would not experience death before he had seen the Messiah. Upon Jesus' presentation in the Temple, Simeon blessed the child, Mary, and Joseph, and then praises God saying, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace. . ." To see God's plan accomplished firsthand would have been wondrous and inexplicable.
"See the Mighty, weak and tender
See the Word who now is mute
See the Sovereign without splendor
See the Fullness destitute"
We also remember the form He took on, meek and humble, born among beasts in a stable. We recall Philippians 2:5-11, when Paul described the Messiah humbling Himself, pouring Himself into the shell of a vulnerable babe. Exemplified in His lowly birth we see the truth that Jesus did not consider equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but instead He took the form of a servant. A servant who would suffer, be reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. A servant that would be obedient to the point of death. Though His state on earth was lowly, we know that our King is exalted highly by God.
"See how humankind received Him;
See Him wrapped in swaddling bands
Who as Lord of all creation
Rules the wind by His commands"
Despite the Christ-child being swaddled and held by mere mortals, the flick of His wrist had the propensity to command the winds to whistle and storms to roll-in or depart. I cannot help but consider Mark 4:39, when Jesus rebuked the wind and rain that was tossing Him and His disciples in a boat. Jesus was not even concerned by the severity of the storm; but why should there have been concern when the wind and rain are but another tool in His arsenal? The power to discipline the weather was exuded in Christ as an adult, but existed in Him also as an infant.
"Light of life, dispel my darkness
Let your frailty strengthen me;
Let your meekness give me boldness
Let your burden set me free
Oh, Emmanuel, my Savior
Let Your death be life for me!"
This last section of the song emphasizes how we should respond to the revelation of the previous remarks. This is a phenomenon that should be happening every time we approach the Word of God or embark upon prayer. When we read our Bibles, or when we seek wise counsel from God through prayer, and when we receive answers in return about the character and nature of God, we then must ask "What do I do with this information? How will I let the knowledge that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon me sanctify my heart and conform me to the image of Christ Himself?"
When we see the power of God poured into a humble child, we should seek to find boldness and confidence in God and what He accomplished through something so small and so vulnerable. An infant came to earth and declared war on sin and death. When we remember the burden that the Messiah carried through His corporeal life on Earth, we should be set free from the burden and weight of the fall. The swaddled bundle that laid in a feeding trough, the King of lowly birth, has come to accomplish the will and plan of the Father. We rejoice during Christmas because of this.
A verse that has been instrumental in plucking me from the throws of sin is Philippians 4:8; whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy–think about these things. I'm a naturally negative person, fixated on troubles rather than joy. But after spending so much of my life in misery and anxiety, the Holy Spirit has simultaneously comforted me and commanded better of me. We must think of excellent things. It is unbearably easy to get swept-up in the riptide of gift-buying, stressful cooking, and holiday appearances during this season. But I can attest that since I've begun making a concerted effort on taking captive my thoughts, and bending them heavenward, Christmas has been simpler, more worshipful, and thereby more enjoyable.
For many of us Christmas is an easy time of year, a fun and comforting salve for our heart. For some of us, because of innumerable reasons, it isn't. But the fact remains that thinking on the excellence of Christ is tremendously enjoyable. Wherever we fall on the spectrum, let us be joined and unified as a Church in standing amazed at Emmanuel, God with us.
Sarah Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.