Out of the Manger and Into the World
I couldn’t believe it happened again. “The Holidays” ~ that favorite time of year ~ were over and the decorations needed to be put away. I did not expect to get depressed this time, something I have struggled with in years past. My husband and I had made a very intentional agreement that we would pace ourselves throughout the Christmas season, not over spend, over decorate, or over do in any way. We were exhausted from the events of the year: a son who graduated from high school and began college; another son, a college senior, who moved back home and then got married; concerns surrounding our four aging parents and a couple prodigal nephews; my husband’s job loss and several months of unemployment; the deaths of several close family members and friends.
So while we didn’t do as much decorating as usual, I still thrilled at getting some of the nostalgic memories out of their boxes in the basement and making our home feel warm and beautiful with the season’s special magic. Instead of baking for three weeks, I baked for three hours one day. It was plenty. We joyed at attending several special Christmas events and having friends and family gather throughout the season. It truly was the most stress-free holiday I could remember.
But something still snapped in me when it was over and I spent the weekend after New Year’s, my traditional time to tear things down, having a gloomy, self-centered pity party. Tears flowed as I carefully wrapped each ornament in tissue paper and packed them into boxes. I felt very alone. My husband long ago gave up trying to console me during these times. We both thought “simplifying” would be the answer, and frankly, I was surprised that I was having this reaction again. I mentioned it to a friend, who promptly sent me an e-mail and included a quote from “Hugs for the Holidays” by John William Smith. It read:
"The birth of Jesus was the birth of hope. Don't let the wonder of that hope disappear with the decorations at the end of the holiday season this year. Follow that hope right out of that manger and into the rest of His life. Watch hope become a man, the man a lamb, and the lamb the Lord who will come for us again. When He comes, we'll look at one another and say, 'There will never be another day like today.' "
I immediately knew this message had been sent straight from God to me. How could I have forgotten so soon? The story of the baby in the manger doesn’t end when we put away our Christmas decorations. No, it has only just begun. The warmth and joy we feel at Christmas is all about hope, and we need to follow that hope right out of that manger and into the rest of the story. Jesus came to bring light to a very sin darkened world. His light always invades the darkness. Even the smallest amount of light in the darkest of rooms can be seen, because that is the nature of light.
As I turned the calendar page to a new year, I realized I had a choice to make. Will I allow after-holiday letdown to overtake me and wallow around in self-pity and hopelessness, or will I let the light of Christ shine in and through me? Will I miss the whole point of the season of hope, or will I follow that baby out of the manger and into a world that desperately needs to see His light?
"Lord Jesus, forgive us for trying to keep you as that sweet baby in the manger. Your Father, and ours, sent you into this dark world with a mission~~to bring us Light and Salvation. Shine your light upon us, and save us especially from the sin of self-absorption. Give us a sense of mission too, and empower us to proclaim the meaning of your coming to a sin darkened world. We look forward to the day when you will come again in power and great glory! In your Name we pray. Amen."