Burl Ives Was Right

Victorian Christmas Image - Child with presents

“Have a holly jolly Christmas,
It’s the best time of the year …”

Burl Ives voice filled my head as I walked around our local outdoor mall with my two-year-old granddaughter Sophia who was pouting. “Smile Sophia. It’s the best time of the year,” I repeated not really meaning it.

There was a time in my life – in fact for most of my life – I would have agreed with Burl Ives. I loved the festivities of Christmas, all of them, from tree cutting to candy making. I loved the camaraderie of Christmas caroling, the bliss of hot chocolate in cold hands, and even the exasperation of practicing for the Christmas play. I loved decorating and wrapping presents to the backdrop of Christmas music, and I loved the excitement of Christmas morning surprise.

But for the last ten or so years, for me, Christmas has been a chore to get through – not even close to “the best time of the year.” My sour attitude has bothered me, but I haven’t been able to shake it, and I haven’t been able to figure out why it plagues me. Maybe it’s the sadness that creeps in with years of woundedness or the pain of on-going hurtingness, or worse, maybe it’s a loss of wonder.

Something happened to me the other night though, and I think I may have gotten a little bit of Christmas spirit back, not the same old familiar sentimental kind of spirit I had felt before; this was better.

Earlier that day my husband and I decided to take Sophia out for the afternoon. One of the great things about where we live is that in about ten minutes we can be at any one of several beautiful seaside resort areas where we can enjoy the amenities for free, and, this time of year, without the bustle of summer vacationers. So, after a while at the playground and ice cream, we took a stroll and watched the sunset from a lake-side trail. On our way back to the car, in the midst of a tucked-away grassy area that generously separated one charming row of unoccupied homes from another, we happened upon a grand tree sparkling with white lights. I’m not sure if it was the desertedness of the area, or the quietness, or the stars twinkling above the tree, or what, but it was really quite magical. Look Sophia, I said, meaning it this time, “That tree is for Jesus. It’s his birthday,” I explained. “The whole earth is decorated for his party.”

Christmas is For Jesus

In that moment, it really dawned on me, that what I told Sophia was true even if people like me didn’t understand why they were going through the motions anymore. Christmas is meant to be FOR Jesus NOT just ABOUT him. It’s his birthday – his party.

The decorations are meant to be for him –for his enjoyment – so they should be over the top. The party clothes are for his celebration so we should put on our most festive. The plays and songs are for him so they should be spectacular. The food is party food for The King so it should be especially yummy. The gifts are ultimately for him so they should be lavished with love.

Maybe people years ago understood this, and maybe they still do and you are one of those who does, and, at this point, you are thinking, “duh!” But, embarrassment aside, I admit this was really a new revelation for me, and I don’t think I will ever think of Christmas in the same ho-hum way again. Christmas is for Christ; it is his celebration and, because of that, it really is the best time of the year.

Praying that whatever you do this Christmas season you will do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).