Approaching Christmas

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

We’re getting ready for Christmas at the Sapp house. That means that Julie’s been decorating the house and I’ve been buying myself presents online. That’s how we do it—or at least how we’ve done it so far this year. I helped carry the boxes down from the attic, and since then Julie’s done all the work.

She’s put up the tree, the wreaths and the lights. She’s carefully placed the ornaments and hung the garland. She’s put out the nativity sets. She’s gone to the store to add a few new things to our Christmas decorations. And now our home is filled with holiday cheer. 

And I have helped by taking advantage of the Black Friday sales to buy a new sound bar for the TV. Not exactly a "husband of the year" performance, I know.

What do Christmas preparations look like at your house? Do you go all out? Do you share the work equally? Are you lucky if you get a tree up at all?

We all get ready for Christmas differently. If everything goes according to plan, though, by Christmas Eve we will all arrive at the manger together.

And, because we’re all aiming to arrive at the same place at the same time, hoping to celebrate the same birth, it’s tempting to think that we’re all traveling the same road to get to there.

But we’re not.

I’ve been particularly struck this year by the different places from which we all approach Christmas.

Some still approach Christmas with child-like wonder and joy. Some are enjoying approaching Christmas with children of their own. Some are getting to relive the merriment of child-filled Christmases as grandparents.

For others, though, the holidays are a tough time of year. Loved ones who have passed away are most noticeably absent at Christmas. For many, divorce, and its memory, is never more painful than around the holidays.

Some will gather with family members who have hurt them profoundly and put on a brave face. Others will spend this Christmas alone.

That means that some of our journeys to Christmas will be easy. Others not so easy. And still others will be downright challenging.  

Our roads to Christmas this year will not be all alike. But, like all good pilgrimages, even though our journeys will be different, what waits at the end is the same.

Apple created a commercial for the Rio Olympics that uses a poem by Maya Angelou, “Human Family.” The poem ends with the repeated statement, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

If you're reading this in your email, you can listen to Maya Angelou read "Human Family" HERE.

For me this year, that’s one of the great messages of Christmas: “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

The manger is a great leveler. No matter where we come from or what baggage we carry as we travel, we are all in equal need of what the manger promises at the end of our pilgrimage.

So, as you approach Christmas this year, remember that we’re all on different journeys.

Some of our paths to Christmas are lit by faith, and some are clouded by doubt.

Some will make the journey with merry bands of joyful pilgrims, and some will take grief-stricken steps alone.

Some will trudge along indifferently, not sure what propels them forward. Others aren’t sure they’ll make it to the manger at all this year.

But whether we approach Christmas with joy, excitement and wonder—or grief, loneliness and fear—or even weather-beaten indifference—once we get to the manger, we are all alike, my friends.

When we get to Bethlehem and peer down into the face of the Christ-child, we are, all of us, equally loved, forgiven, redeemed and known.

So skip if you can, walk if you have to, brace yourself against the wind and fight for every step if you must, but get to the manger this Christmas.

There’s great beauty this Christmas in knowing that the promise for each of us is the same.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

A beautiful message, beautifully conveyed in Bethlehem.

See you at the manger.