December, more than any other month of the year, is when we often presume that God’s peace and joy will be felt in our hearts automatically – simply because it is Christmas. Yet when the memories of hardships flood our thoughts, the light of the Christmas spirit can get snuffed out quicker than a candle in a whirlwind, making it a challenge to find a reason to celebrate at all.
I have always been known in my household as a “Christmas-aholic.” I begin playing my holiday CDs at the end of October, and as soon as the turkey is cold on Thanksgiving Day, I can be found buried in my attic, pulling out Christmas decorations. To say it is my favorite season would be a profound understatement.
However, 2011 has been a trying year for my family. It would probably rank as one of our hardest years ever. You see, my husband and I have walked through some difficult situations together. The ripple effects of the economic recession hit my husband’s company in full force, and we faced a new level of financial hardship. We have two teenage girls and one preteen boy living under our roof, so the stress and worry that comes from parenting can speak for itself! And to top it all off, the bad news broadcasted throughout the media every day can eventually become overwhelming.
As a result of those hard times my little light felt snuffed. I found myself desperately searching for the Christmas spirit that had once burned brightly in my heart. I began to pray and admit my feelings to God. He responded, saying, “Tracie, life IS hard. But My gifts alone are reasons to celebrate.”
God is right. Life is tough. John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (NLT). God makes it clear we will experience hard times, and who likes hard times? Yet, in the same breath, He reminds us there is peace in Him, for He has overcome the world.
God’s compassionate whisper prompted me to refocus my spiritual eyes on His gifts, instead of looking at life through my human eyes. Instead of only seeing the discouragement, disappointment and frustration of the past year, I began to consider all the blessings
I had experienced … not just tangible blessings, but intangible blessings as well.
Intangible blessings included witnessing my daughters come alive in their faith this past summer as they spent days and nights on mission trips and in worship experiences. Or seeing God work in my husband’s life and heart, intervening in our marriage in amazing ways.
I also experienced blessings such as my own increased faith as I surrendered to trusting God completely – even when I found it difficult to understand His plans and purposes.
In addition to what God was doing in my family, He also gave us three gifts found
in John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s gifts include:
• the gift of God’s love,
• the gift of God’s Son,
• and the gift of eternal life.
These precious gifts are given unconditionally. All we need to do is open our arms and accept them with hearts full of faith and gratitude.
Despite the hardships we have endured over the past year, or the hardships we may face in the coming year, I’m counting the reasons I have to celebrate. The world can never take away the gifts I’ve been given.
If your light feels snuffed today, or if the memories swirling in your thoughts are squelching your Christmas spirit, the One who has overcome the world can help you overcome those feelings.
You can reclaim your Christmas spirit this year by remembering that December is not a time to celebrate the Christmas holiday. It is a time to celebrate Christ, and the blessings found in His intangible gifts.
That, my friend, is a joyous reason to celebrate.
Tracie Miles is a speaker and writer with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband of 21 years and their three children. She loves spending time with her family, attending children’s ball games, writing, shopping, playing tennis and participating in any activity that involves being outdoors. She enjoys writing, speaking and sharing God’s love and encouragement with other women. You can connect with Tracie at www.traciewmiles.com.