Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.
But whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God, the Creator of all light, and he shines forever without change or shadow. ~ James 1:17 TLB
As recent as last year, even with our Christmas tree by the front window, there was tension around how to celebrate Christmas in our home. As I schedule this post ahead of time, I don’t know what this year will hold. For years Jerry and I have hashed out the specifics, me always, always pushing for more Christmas stuff. As if the next decoration or tradition would satisfy my yearning for celebration.
But I’ve learned something writing these devotionals. For years I thought my deepest wound at Christmas was not being free to create for my children the fullness of the experience I wanted them to have. I thought my hurt centered around whether or not we went to Christmas Eve service or had a Christmas tree or . . . well, you fill in the blank. Each of these decisions to celebrate did bring a measure of joy and freedom, but they are not complete and never will be. This struggle with Christmas celebration is for me only a microcosm of the greater struggle within.
See, I was created to celebrate.
The trappings of Christmas are simply an expression of this need to worship, to sing, to dance. What I really seek is complete freedom to be who I am, to praise my God in abandon, to enjoy every ounce of beauty I can find, without majoring on minors or intense self-evaluation of the rightness of every choice.
From the beginning of my life the enemy tried to steal this identity from me. Children of celebration don’t do well with strife, but I was surrounded by it from day one. They need free expression and movement and beauty. As a child, religion created within me a mistrust of the aesthetics. The culture I was raised in didn’t give much credence to the arts. In the early years movies were considered evil. Dance classes a sin. And much of art inappropriate. Beautiful spaces were not particularly appreciated. There was a prevailing attitude in the church of my childhood that poverty was more acceptable than riches. Too much emphasis on outward adornment was also suspect. As a religious culture, there was a scarcity in our ability to celebrate, to embrace the abundance of the gifts God offered us. Christmas was but a tiny piece of a prevailing attitude that found suspect anything that included too much celebration, too much joy, too much beauty—too much abundance of any type.
This morning I read:
“God is not way out there somewhere. He is here! . . . He is the essence of both our inner and outer life. O God, You are here! O Christ, You have come that I might have abundant life. O gracious Spirit, You are as invisible as the wing yet as real as the air that surrounds me, which I inhale to energize my body! You are within and without.
“It is in You, O my God, that I live and move and have my being. You are the environment from which my total life is derived. You are the energy and dynamic of my whole being. Every good and every perfect bestowal is derived from You. The vitality of my spirit, the energy of my emotions, the drive of my disposition, the powerful potential of my mind, the vigor of my body; in fact, every facet of my total, abundant life is a reflection of Your life, Oh Lord, being lived out in me and through me. . . .
“I sense some of His glory in the wonders of the world He made: the flaming sunrises and sunsets that still the soul, the awesome grandeur of the mighty mountain ranges and sweeping plains; the restless roar of ocean waves. . . . All of these contribute something to the total environment which supports and sustains me. Each in its own way contributes to the well-being of my person. . . . He has put it at my disposal for full and enriched living. All that is sublime, beautiful, dignified, noble, and grand has this as its source. The finest in our literature, music, arts, science, and social intercourse has its base in the generous giving of our Lord”
~ Phillip Keller.*
Part of worship is the freedom to live and move and enjoy every single gift the Lord has for us. Worship is not about scarcity. It is about abundance! To enjoy each gift God has for us, every tiniest bit of delight He created on our behalf is to honor Him and His goals to bless us!
It is possible a child of a different temperament would weather the religious culture of my childhood better than I. Some personalities have less need for the aesthetics in their worship than I do. Some don’t have this inner drive to sing and dance and write words of praise. Some don’t need to hang twinkling lights or cut out intricate snowflakes.
Then again, maybe those people need people like me, people who lead them to celebration and beauty.
Keller’s words are true. Every good bestowal is from the hand of our good God. Every ounce of beauty that delights our souls. Everything that points back to Him. His vitality is sensed in the energy of a dance. His powerful mind in a complex riddle. All that is lived through us that is joyful and good and beautiful and abundant is a reflection of the life of our God, who dwells in joy and abundance. After all, He is the One of whom the psalmist wrote, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11, NASB).
As I ponder this book and specifically the wounds I’ve carried surrounding Christmas, epiphany comes. My deepest wound of this season is not the lack of presents or a Christmas tree or a family meal. It is the crushing of my innate person, the one created for celebration. It is the agony of loss of freedom in worshiping my Jesus when my personality cries out for every avenue to be explored. It is the chopping off of the flow of celebration and love that comes from Him and is designed to flow through me to my loved ones in a myriad of ways in any given season.
It isn’t just Christmas the enemy has tried to steal from me.
It is life!
The right to be who I am and breath my own air the unique way He created me to do it!
You see, I am a child of dance and song. I am a child of celebration. From the beginning the enemy has sought to steal this from me. He has tried to exploit my desire to please God by turning it into striving instead of joyful surrender and praising advancement. He tried to twist the deep parts of my personality, the “old soul” that is me to make me melancholy instead of simply reflective and insightful. He tried to poison my sanguine temperament with hopelessness.
But he has lost his battles. His schemes are crushed into the ground. Where he sowed pain and despair my Jesus came in and poured His healing blood and turned all evil had planted into seeds of faith. My Jesus watered those seeds with the showers of blessings and storms of trial and the every-single-day-new-hope of His Light. The seeds are bursting forth in blossoms, and the garden of my heart where He dwells is fragrant with grace. The turtledoves have arrived and coo their love song there in my garden heart. The garden my Lord planted for His enjoyment. Here there is hope. There is dance and song and celebration. For I am His child, created for joy.
Oh sweet friend, whether your temperament and mine are dissimilar or very much the same, all of us were created for a joyful expression of worship and celebration to our King, Jesus! All of us have fought the battle to turn from the enemy’s lies and deceptions to step more fully into who we were created to be. We’ve all been pressed down. Held back. Blocked at every turn. But no more! He is come! This baby in the manger, this King on the cross. He broke the chains of sin and death and set us free to be all the Father intended at our creation.
Sweet Jesus! Thank You for setting me to celebrate. To enjoy the good in this world. To live a vigorous life in Your energy. You already won the victory in the battles I face. Show me where the enemy has stunted my growth and how to claim the freedom You already won for me. I want it all! Full experience of freedom in you. The ability to become all You intend me to be and to enjoy all You intend me to enjoy. Where celebration and love and freedom have been dammed up within me, clear out the blockage!
*Selections are from chapter nine of A Shepherd Looks at the Good Shepherd