When Christmas dies, it finally becomes real

By Joel A. Hess

Every year, a little bit of my love for Christmas dies. I don’t want it to. I hold on tightly in November. I turn up the tunes and decorate my office right after Thanksgiving. Each year, the tree goes up faster and with less ceremony. Each year, I pause less with each ornament. Each year, the season goes by faster. I barely have time to be anxious, excited, or even mournful.

Everyone gets older. No longer do we count firsts with confidence, but now we count lasts with trepidation. The thrill is gone. It is absolutely DOA. I am done chasing after past feelings and memories. My hope that this year will be different has been completely exhausted. It’s all gone.

Sure, I could mourn the days when my kids tore open their presents at 6 a.m. I could stay up late thumbing through pictures of my mom holding me tightly at grandmas. I could breathe in nostalgia till tears cover my face. But for what? It won’t change the present at all but overshadow it with gloom. How immeasurably depressing to witness all the movies made by adults desperately trying to recreate what no longer is there.

Christmas has finally died for me this year. Yet out its ashes a far greater joy has risen. It’s a joy disconnected from memories, gifts, youth, and especially nostalgia. In the ashes lies a baby in a manger, that is for sure. In the rubble of mistakes, wrong decisions and absolutely self-centered behavior hangs a Savior on a cross. And in the grave of all my memories is the body of the Christmas child who died for me…alive, risen, conquering, coming again.

The joy of Christmas does not lie in the past but is kept secure in the future. Every Christmas party you enjoy this year is not a crumbling recreation of a great one but is a foreshadowing of the greatest one. So do not mourn the aging of your guests, but look forward to their resurrection and coming newness. These celebrations are just mustard seeds. These Christmas carols are just rehearsal. These gifts are just party favors. Christmas has come, but Christmas is coming. And we will no longer circle the sun faster and faster, counting down the years and saying our goodbyes. But we will stand still. All things will stand still. It will be eternally Christmas.

We will see Christmas face to face.