Today I will begin the job of taking down all the Christmas decorations and getting the house back into its usual order. This is a chore I always dread, and I have written about it before in my book Seasons. I love Christmas and everything that goes with it: the lights, the presents, the music, the food… all of it. I begin Christmas early, and this year I started earlier than I usually do. I couldn’t wait to get the tree and all the lights up. So what goes up must come down, and it is a backbreaking chore.
I dread all the work that goes into putting away the decorations, but this year I dread it for a different reason. More than ever before, Christmas has been a respite from the darkness of our world in 2020. We have left our lights on all the time except for when we go to bed. I have turned off the news and that has made me much more peaceful. It’s been Christmas music and Hallmark movies, and thanks to YouTube, some wonderful messages from pastors I have discovered this year. So putting away the decorations (and I sigh as I even write these words) seems to be a signal to return to what passes for normal this year. An end to joy and a return to reality.
But every ending is also a beginning. There is something energizing about getting the house all clean and free of the Christmas clutter. It is a signal that a new year is just days away, and new years bring new opportunities. Besides, returning to reality doesn’t automatically preclude joy. That is a choice, and I choose joy!
I have been thinking a good deal about Mary and Joseph and all the characters in the Christmas story. I have been especially thinking about the time they lived in. That was a dark period for Israel as they were under Roman rule. The government issued orders that were burdensome, especially the order to return to the place of one’s birth to be counted in the census. So we also are under burdensome rules and recommendations in 2020. Christmas was different for many of us, and travel has been difficult.
But what a blessing it is to be living on this side of the birth of Christ. The Jews who lived before Christ worshipped in their temple and synagogues, but when they left to return to their homes, they left God there. Because God came to earth on that first Christmas, we don’t leave Him in our places of worship. He is with us all the time. Emmanuel, God with us! I don’t think we really stop to consider how truly remarkable that fact is. When we receive Christ as Savior, He comes to live inside us. Jesus said in John 14:23:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
So when I put away the Christmas decorations I will not actually be putting away Christmas. I am not putting God in a box. Because of Christmas I can experience joy even in the darkest days. And because of Christmas I can face an unknown 2021; God will be with me. And so as I turn to this big chore before me, I resolve to keep Christmas.