The Christmas blues have a way of unwrapping themselves like an unexpected present with no return receipt enclosed. That’s when I know I’ve gotten the season all wrong, with expectations built sky high for things that have little to do with celebrating the Savior’s birth.
In Christmas Longings, Part One, I wrote of how traditions both secular and religious can turn the holidays into hollow-days—in which my heart feels empty rather than fulfilled.
But this year, some things have changed.
In regard to the gift-giving frenzy that overtakes Christmas—well, my heart grew three sizes when I put aside my grinchy attitude by setting my heart on God who is the Great Giver. Daily I have been practicing giving in honor of Him—not big things, not costly things, but thoughtful things. He has redeemed for me the beauty of giving, filling the hollow places left when giving turns into materialism.
As for the religious part, there is more holy and less hollow here too this year.
In the past, we have made feeble attempts to set our hearts on Christ during Christmas, but none of these attempts grew into Straza Household Traditions. We’ve been unattached, untethered—aimless, really. We needed some direction . . .
Just a few weeks ago, I was completing some work for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (through KMA). Messianic Jews acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and Light of the World who also fulfills Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.
That’s when inspiration sparked.
You see, my hubby has Jewish heritage: We could celebrate Hanukkah in worship of Jesus, the Light who has come into the world.
Well, he loved the idea. We decided to give it a go. Web searching provided the details for celebrating Hanukkah—the prayers, the menorah, the candles, and so on. And I learned that Hanukkah 2010 would begin at sundown December 1—the following day.
That was fine, except for one small thing: We had no menorah. I would have to go out in search of one, which seemed OK because I had until sundown. Shouldn’t be too much trouble, right?
My menorah hunt on December 1 reminded me why I prefer online shopping. The candles were a snap to find, but after six stops and no menorah in hand, I went home, defeated.
Then I got creative. I scoured the house for a makeshift menorah. I saw candleholders in the form of eight gold, frosted etched-glass cups (that once belonged to my grandmother) and one red, frosted etched-glass cordial cup (that once belonged to my mother-in-law).
All lined up, the glasses sparkled. It felt right and meaningful and special—honoring to the Lord.
For eight nights, we met at the front room to light our candles, recite the prayers, read Scripture, and think about all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
His presence was invited again and again, each night as we sat huddled before our menorah. We gathered and pondered Him, and He came to fill up the hollow spaces.
Our first Hanukkah has now passed, but we have a tradition in the making. It has made the hollow of our typical Christmas into the fullness of a Holy Christmas.
That’s what happens when we turn to Jesus, the Messiah, the Light of the World—God With Us. He makes us, who are hollow, full and holy.
Amazing, isn’t it?