By Alex Florez
If you’re like me, you have some magical Christmas memories, and you have others that stir up a confusing cocktail of anger, sadness, pain, and regret. On one hand, I cherish recollections of idyllic Christmas days of yore: I got my first bike one year and my first CD player another. When I close my eyes, I can see the neighborhood light shows, smell my mom’s cooking, and hear the obligatory Christmas playlist ranging from Nat King Cole to Wham!, and I have enough glorious Christmas memories to warm my heart for the rest of my life.
On the other hand, I remember Christmas experiences that fill my brain with the smoldering remains of burned coal. I know I’m not alone here: the holidays often breed a special species of darkness, and the juxtaposition of Christmas shadow and light leaves me unsettled, even resentful.
In fact, the not so merry Christmas memories tempt me to redouble my efforts to make all future holidays so jolly and bright that they blot out all the bad stuff. This lands me back where I began—pressured to make Christmas Day an experiential success. If I can deck the metaphorical halls of my life with enough tinsel, perhaps I will be able to look back on this Christmas day as one worth celebrating.
The first Christmas morning I ever spent with my wife’s family taught me something crucial to my faith. Her dad started with reading Scripture, a brief reflection, and a prayer. Everyone else in the room seemed to understand something I hadn’t learned yet: Christmas is not an occasion to create good memories while deftly avoiding the creation of bad ones; it’s an invitation to stop and honor the coming of our King.
What I learned from my wife’s family that Christmas long ago is that we must be determined to make Jesus the central figure of this uniquely holy day. Basking in the radiance of His light allows our circumstances to become secondary. No matter what arises between Black Friday and the singing of “Auld Lang Syne,” following the Lord provides the assurance of God’s constant companionship through every conceivable version of the Christmas experience. The glorious moments of former years are to be reckoned as gifts from our generous God, while the ghosts of Christmas past can powerfully remind us of our deep need for a Savior.
Whatever kind of year we’ve had, whatever this unique morning has served up for us, let’s consider this: if it’s true that “today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11), and if that Savior is our king who lives and reigns even now, then maybe we can let our hearts burst forth in song, not just today, but every day. Joy to the world! The Lord is with us!