Several years ago, around this time of year, I was contemplating taking down my Christmas tree early. Doing that kind of thing is not like me at all; I’m usually full of Christmas spirit and enjoy decorating my whole house, top to bottom, outside and in. The Christmas season has nearly always been a bright prospect to me, full of the promise of family, friends, sweet treats, and yes, presents. (I’m shallow enough to admit that I love gifts!) Christmas parties, music, sweaters, and especially the twinkling lights all combine to make this time of year my very favorite.
But, this year was different—I felt as though a grey cloud had descended, and I was stuck under its bleak, cold shadow nearly all the time. I couldn’t figure out where this cloud had come from, and I found myself wondering if I would ever feel normal again. I was just sad.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I remember feeling disappointed in myself because I couldn’t seem to get into the Christmas spirit. I told myself I wanted to celebrate the Christ’s birth in the right mindset. As Christmas drew closer and my thoughts dwelt more and more on Jesus and on what His birth means to me, I realized something. My sad, needy, discouraged frame of mind was exactly the right mindset to be in ahead of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, I turned my thoughts toward the stable, the manger, and the miraculous Child occupying this unlikeliest of nurseries. And, on that night, I realized that Jesus didn’t come for happy people who have it all together. No, the Messiah came for broken hearts and tear-stained faces. He came to lift our heads, to identify with the lowly, to reveal himself to the poor in spirit.
On that Christmas Eve, I clung to Jesus more tightly than ever before. I realized how much I needed Him and how desperate I was for hope. I didn’t know if my grey cloud would ever dissipate, but He met me there, at the manger, and sat under the cloud with me. I didn’t have to get into the right frame of mind. I didn’t have to be caught up on my Advent readings. I just had to show up with my need for Him.
If you find that you’re just not in the Christmas spirit this season, draw close to the manger. There, you’ll find the comfort of a Savior who came to an uncomfortable, inhospitable world so that we might have hope.
Corley Shumaker is the Assistant Campus Minister of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Arkansas State University. She has an MDiv. degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Corley is married to Kevin and you’ll find them cheering on Red Wolves football each fall. You can reach her on Twitter at @corleycline