I sat around glistening trees that Christmas with warm drinks and giggling babies—other people’s babies. Almost a year of trying to conceive had left me feeling empty; each cycle passed with no news that a little one would soon be joining our family. On Christmas Day I held more babies and let one or two tears fall as I sang “Satisfied in You” by the Sing Team. And I was, I was satisfied in Him. I knew God is good and that He is sovereign, and the next day my cycle started again.
Grace was abounding to me as I kept my hands open to Him in this area. Christmas Day had left me renewed in my worship of Christ as my sovereign and good God. January came and with it the news that I had so long hoped to hear: I was pregnant!
As much as I attempted to rein it in, I am a Hallmark-Christmas-movie, twinkling-lights, cookies-and-tea kind of Christmas girl. One of my first thoughts after calculating my baby’s due date was that next Christmas, I would be holding a little bundle of joy in my arms while celebrating the birth of my redeeming Savior.
Fast-forward to the next Christmas season. As you can see, my expectations were far from low! Yet, in the season I anticipated celebrating with so much joy and praise, I somehow often found myself frustrated and sad.
You see, my Paul Tripp Advent devotional was not read every day as planned, and the tree was not always watered which, living in the desert, left it more brown than green. The lights were not hung, nor were the handmade ornaments finished. Everything sat in big dusty boxes in the corner of each room, which gave the house more of an “abandoned warehouse” feel than a “magical winter wonderland” one. To top it all off, my postpartum body refused to be stuffed into any of my favorite Christmas sweaters.
I had been determined that our first Christmas home with a precious new daughter was going to be filled to the brim with all the coziest traditions. As each day slipped past, I felt more behind and more depressed I was missing this wonderful opportunity to celebrate Christmas.
A solution to the problem
Of course, I had a solution to this predicament. I would take another trip to the craft store. Because buying more crafts—while looking at other unfinished ones—had to help this lack-of-jolly predicament I found myself in.
Then I saw her. A mom with three little girls, all dressed in Christmas attire, loading her minivan with their purchases. The middle girl made the mistake of dropping something, presumably breakable, which sent her mother into a fury. As I hustled past, I felt self-righteous shock. Couldn’t this mother see that under the guise of celebrating the holidays with her daughters, she was actually making everyone miserable?
That’s when the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit showed me that my heart was not far from this mother in the craft store parking lot. And who was it far from? The Savior I was supposedly worshiping with all this holiday worry.
Worship through celebration
Celebrating well is an act of worship. Psalm 104:19 tells us that “He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.” This rhythm of marking seasons and celebrating special times in those seasons is a good thing. We, as finite humans, are so prone to forgetfulness. We forget the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives, and the coming and going of seasons can remind us to pause and reflect on Him.
This may be most true at Christmas. It is a season when nativity scenes are budding around our streets, our cities, and even our entire country! Yet, as I learned, just the presence of this season does not produce worshipful celebration in our hearts as it should. No, we are far too prone to take this opportunity to make ourselves and our loved ones miserable as we seek to “celebrate” Jesus. In fact, doesn’t it seem that our sinful habits tend to be magnified around the holidays? How then can we celebrate in a worshipful way?
Jesus has been gracious to me, and sometimes that grace has been hard. In that loving and redeeming grace He has shown me the muck in my heart that I want to believe is not there. Yet, there it is. For there is one thing I know for sure: the only thing truly lovely about me is Christ in me. The rest may appear to shine on the outside, but it is simply an illusion covering selfish motives, self-righteousness, and a desire to be made happy and comfortable on all my own terms.
I thank my God that Christ in me is changing this slowly, but oh what still lingers in need of His work! His grace has revealed to me, more than once, that at the end of the day I often am more interested in worshiping myself, not the King of Kings.
A heart centered on Christ
My depression this season grows in proportion to my selfishness. I have an idea in my head of how this holiday should look, how it should unfold in glistening romance. When it does not do that, I grow bitter and sad. This, my friends, is a telltale sign that our hearts are not centered on our Savior. What are they centered on? Ourselves.
In order to celebrate in a way that worships Him, this has to change. The change begins where it so often does: in repentance. There is something so beautiful about acknowledging sin before a God who condescended to save us from it. Repenting of that sin, we can call out to Him for forgiveness and grace to turn from it. Then we must fix our eyes on Jesus. I do this through meaningful hymns and hearing His story through the Gospels. As we fix our eyes on Him, only then do the things of this Earth dim in the light of His glorious grace—which shines brighter than any Christmas decoration ever could. We worship Him as the one who is worthy to be praised.
And because He is so good, I sit here now praising Him. Jesus came as that baby to die for our sins and to make us righteous before a Holy God. He came to save us from our fallen desire to worship ourselves in place of our merciful Lord. In the midst of the holiday hustle, I can praise Him that He came and will come again. I can rejoice in the startling truth that He cares about selfish hearts like mine and that He is making all things new.
Thank God for a Savior to worship this holiday season!
Your friend, Rebekah
Rebekah Wong is a student at Dallas Theological Seminary studying linguistics. She has a deep love for the Word of God and desires all people to have access to it in their own language. Her dream is to use her education to translate the Bible for people who do not have access to it in their language, and to share the Gospel of Jesus with them. She and her husband, Samuel Wong, have a 13-month-old baby girl and an 11-month-old foster son. They all live happily in El Paso, Texas. Find her here on Instagram.