Written By Lydia Tan, Singapore
Fairy lights. Pretty baubles. Marshmallows roasting over the fire. The fresh smell of pine trees. Loved ones gathered around a table sharing stories and good food. Wrapped gifts of all shapes and sizes with pretty labels on them placed under the decorated Christmas tree. Carols playing in the background as shoppers hurry about from store to store, picking gifts for their loved ones.
These are just some of the things that come to mind when I think about Christmas. I fondly remember the excitement I felt as a kid—staying up the night before in great anticipation of all that the day would bring: gifts that I had spent months asking for, yummy Christmas dishes that only made their special appearance once a year, and the wonderful Christmas cheer.
This was my favorite time of the year (and possibly many of you as well). Sadly, all good things come to an end and I remember distinctly the feelings of hopelessness and loss I felt the day after Christmas when the realization hit me that I would have to wait another 364 days for my favorite day to arrive again. What a whirlwind of emotions!
As I grew older, something changed.
Though Christmas was still my favorite season, it seemed like I was gradually losing my excitement towards it. Celebrations started to lose their appeal and all I wanted to do was to cuddle up in a warm and cozy spot, reading a book with a cup of hot cocoa in hand.
What happened to that childlike wonder and thrill I used to have? Did the swarm of activities, busyness of the season, and overexposure to incessant Christmas marketing drain my excitement for the season?
That’s when it struck me—the reason I had lost my sense of awe and wonder towards Christmas. It was built around the superficial and temporal: gifts, food, ambience etc. But preferences change, times change, and people change as the years go by. The only thing that remains relevant and unchanging is the reason for Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior.
This realization got me thinking about how I could build a lasting sense of wonder and awe towards Christmas. Through a conversation with a dear friend (who has a larger-than-life personality and an amazing passion for God and zest for life), God showed me how I could have a permanent joy and wonder.
1. Remind myself of what it’s truly all about
It may be tough especially when we’re going up against all that the world stands for—the overwhelming voice of consumerism that’s telling us to get that “perfect” gift and to use the joyous occasion to overindulge. I found myself bogged down and stressed out to get the ideal Christmas gifts for my loved ones, such that by the time Christmas finally arrived, I was worn out.
Christmas is more than just about gifts. Instead of pouring our thoughts and efforts into finding the “perfect” gift, why not spend time writing meaningful cards to our loved ones, sharing about the one perfect gift they could ever receive?
Fight the phenomenon and don’t give in to the world’s portrayal of the season. You might feel like a little salmon going against the current, but it will be worth it. Remind yourself of the One who quietly came at Christmas. Take the moment to remember Jesus, our meek and gentle Savior, who came in love and died for love.
2. Preach the gospel to myself
And what better way to do that than to go back to the scriptures? The gospel is and should always be the source of joy and wonder. As apologist Ravi Zacharias once said: “Wonder is retained by wise pondering.”
Take time to read and ponder over the different accounts of Christmas in the gospels and ask God to give you deeper insights as you do so. You might discover a different perspective that would refresh your heart and fill you with a lingering wonder and deeper appreciation that would last way past Christmas.
3. Make it about others
Have you ever experienced the joy that comes from seeing joy on another’s face?
Think of different ways to bless others this Christmas and set aside the time to do so. Besides writing Christmas cards to friends and family reminding one another of why we celebrate and expressing our love and appreciation, we could even go down to the local soup kitchen to bless the less fortunate in our community by serving them and listening to their life stories.
It is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
At the end of the day, all of these should be done not by our own feeble effort but with great dependence on God. As Zacharias said: “The older you get, the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder, and only God is big enough to do that.” We have to remember that only God is able to restore that childlike wonder in us, and to preserve it.
I’ll end off with a saying from my all-time favorite writer, C.S. Lewis. “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”
If we want to retain our sense of wonder and excitement, we need to get close and back into the source of wonder—Jesus—this Christmas!