If there’s ever been a year our hearts yearn to embrace Christmas early, it is without a doubt, this one. I, like many of you, stepped into 2020 wide-eyed with wonder and anticipation of what the year might hold. Then March blew in and turned our world upside down.
Businesses and schools closed.
Parents became homeschool teachers.
Anxiety levels surged.
Long-existing racial injustices came to the light and protests ensued.
Then, an intensely charged election season.
For some of us, this year triggered layers of grief, loss, and depression. For those living with compromised immune systems or health issues, we’ve sheltered in longer, drastically limiting our get-togethers with others outside our immediate families. We’ve felt the sting of missing loved ones, or worse, known of lives lost to the virus.
For others of us, the curbed schedules provided more opportunities for rest and the creation of new rhythms, discovering the balance that became the silver linings our souls desperately savored.
And many of us felt all over the map mentally and emotionally depending on the day or even the hour. We’ve soldiered through this year in the best ways we knew how, and we ought to be proud of our efforts.
Christmas Appeared Early This Year
And yet…time has marched on. We blinked our eyes to find the holiday season upon us. No sooner had Halloween passed when tree lots started popping up near my home—the shades of green spruce making a dent in the cemented city lots. Pictures of friends appeared on my Facebook feed, proudly standing next to row after row of evergreens primed to be chosen as the tree their families would soon adorn.
A few weeks ago, my family picked out a tree at a local gardening store. As we cleared space to make room for it and propped it upright near our front room window, something in me shifted to viewing my tree as more than an article to showcase twinkly, white lights and handmade ornaments.
Christmas appeared early this year, and we’ve embraced it with open arms. Perhaps it is because we ache for the magic, refreshment, and newness the holiday season willingly offers us. For many, Christmas inspires hope. For the believer of Jesus, whose birth we remember and honor, hope broadcasts itself in the stories and symbols we celebrate.
We Need Hope More Than Ever This Year
Hope defined as a verb is “to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” I’m fortunate to know many people whose natural bents point toward high measures of hope. These friends have positive expectations about the future and an innate ability to focus on the good things that are headed their way. Personally, for many years, hope was something that was too attached to my external circumstances. In the gray, bitter seasons of my life, it lied dormant—tucked away in the crevices of pain. Yet when things in my life were flowing cohesively and flourishing, hope rose up. It’s only been in the last several years where the mustard seeds of hope have grown independent of my circumstances. Hope, I believe, can be cultivated and nurtured over time.
Yet this Christmas, the message of hope weighs heavy upon our hearts. So we began to invite it into our homes early and quickly took notice of the ways it weaves itself within the scents, sights, and sounds that saturate this season.
The yuletide use of the evergreen has deep historical roots and has undergone generous iterations over the years. But simply consider the nature of the evergreen in its sheer essence. Picture the way it stands tall, firmly grounded amongst the dead of winter, hues of green gracing the snow-capped mountains or quiet terrain. Its lush branches topped with piles of snow. The evergreens appear unaltered throughout the changing seasons, inspiring the message to persevere through adversity and challenges. Even when we feel as though our world has grown gray and stale, the evergreen offers us elements of newness and rebirth. Its piney scent and green boughs that grace our mantles and staircases represent the perennial freshness of life.
Jesus Is Our Ultimate Hope
The evergreen also displays the reverence and hope we find in the Jesus story. For us this year, the evergreen embodies the hope found in the God who sent himself in human form many years ago. No matter what these last 10 months have held for each of us, one thing is for certain: we’re always in need of hope, but perhaps this year more than ever.
Holy God, let my eyes see past my human limitations and focus upon the hope you offer us even when circumstances may seem hopeless. May my heart be firmly rooted like the evergreen, flourishing and towering in all seasons of life. You alone are my true source of hope.
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