The past few years, I’ve had a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve lost the childhood joy that comes from this time of year or maybe I’ve just lost sight of what Christmas is about through the thick veil of commercialism. Regardless of the cause, this lack of all things merry and bright has plagued my mindset about the greatest time of the year for far too long.
So when I went to Freedom Church, my church, last night for one of our Christmas Eve worship experiences, I wasn’t too excited – I’m a terrible Christian, I know. I knew that the production side would go all out and that the message would be a life changer for many as it has been in years past, but I still couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm.
Even before the experience started, my mindset began to change. Keep in mind, this is all happening on a Thursday night – not normally a night I would consider to be a big church night. But our church was packed. Standing room was sparse in the lobby before the doors to the auditorium opened. When they did, seats filled up so quickly. Even on what is normally an off night, we were packed.
My expectations for the actual experience were met and then exceeded. (No spoilers for those who haven’t attended one of our worship experiences yet, I promise.) The band led us in awesome and engaging worship. Then our pastor gave an incredible message about hope and how we can find it.
And then came the most amazing part.
At the end of even our regular worship experiences, we have an opportunity for people to put their faith in Jesus Christ. Christmas Eve experiences are no exception. In fact, along with Easter, we see more people put their faith in Jesus than any other week. Hearing the number of lives changed forever always lifts my spirits to the roof.
Actually seeing it puts them into the stratosphere.
There was a group of people in the row in front of me – family, friends, I’m not entirely sure how they all knew each other – and 5 or 6 of the people in that group made that life changing decision last night. I also saw a younger boy here, a lady there, lots of others whose lives have been forever changed. And that was just from the limited perspective I saw from my seat. God only knows how many people I couldn’t see that put their faith in Jesus last night.
Seeing all those hands go up, all those decisions made, helped give me hope as well. We hear these analogies about how Jesus is the greatest Christmas gift or that He is the reason for the season, and despite how cheesy they can be, they’re so true.
I know how easy it is to lose sight of what Christmas is about – I’ve lived in that world for several years now. Between all the shopping in madhouses, the traveling at the same time as 6 bajillion other people, the dealing with crazy family, it’s a wonder we all haven’t gone insane.
But there is so much more to Christmas than that – it’s about what I witnessed at church last night. Hope. Because we have the Christmas story, of how Jesus came to live and die for us, we can go through all the Christmas crazies with our head held high because we know that there is more to life than all this stuff.
The best part of this hope is that it doesn’t come down with the tree and it doesn’t stop playing along with the music.
Hope is not a Christmas exclusive that goes away on the 26th.