I will be the first to admit that I despise the holiday season. As in, seriously, I dread the holiday season. Not only do most of my friends disperse to various parts of the world leaving campus and Longview feeling like a ghost town, I also hate the hullabaloo that goes into preparing for Christmas. Yeah, I appreciate the decorations when they are up, but I hate finding them, putting them up, taking them down, and putting them away. I despise how our culture has gone so far into politically correct, but I almost hate the whole "CHRISTmas" thing just as much because it simply becomes a fight. We have turned Saint Nicolas, the Bishop who gave to the poor, into Santa Clause who goes around riding a sleigh and eating cookies. We spend all of Christmas worrying about who is getting what for whom for Christmas and trying to beat the crowds. And heaven forbid that we not have a huge feast to celebrate with! Even the Christmas story has become so romanticized that is hardly resembles the Christmas story. The true sacrifice of this event has been lost to the current generation. And if I ever began to forget why I disliked Christmas, all I needed to do was go to Walmart.

One of the ways I've always protested this season is declaring, quite vocally, how much I absolutely despise Christmas music and everything involved. However, this year, I found a band I have recently fallen in love with.... even their Christmas Album. They are, if you haven't heard, Libera. They have angelic, pure voices that make you feel like you are soaring with them. I have been listening to their Christmas album fairly frequently, actually. And, hands down, they have produced my favorite version of Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel),

This song starts out with the word "Gaudete" repeated twice, but I never really gave much thought to that word. Yeah, the third Sunday in Advent is Gaudete Sunday (which I always just thought of as the Pink Sunday). Yeah, there's a lovely song with that title (also by Libera), but I never really sat down to think about it.

Gaudete. "Gaudete" means "Rejoice." Rejoice. Not be the wet blanket, the "humbug" of the group. REJOICE! When the Angels appeared to the Shepherds, they said "I bring tidings of great JOY." The Christmas season, even with all of it's annoyances, bad memories, and testing times, is a season for Joy.

These last couple weeks have been the first half of Advent, the preparation and waiting for the coming of the King. Yes, every day of the year we are to meditate on the wonders Christ has done for us, but the Christmas season is particularly for us to focus on the beauty of the Christmas story, the Incarnation. God, the maker of everything, the maker of you and me, of the Greeks and the Romans, of Adam and Eve, of the stars, the moon, the black holes, and the planets, came to little earth and took human form by entering the world in the same way we all do: through the womb of a woman. He grew through babyhood, learned to walk, learned to talk, got potty-trained, went through puberty, learned how to work a manual labor job, studied in the Synagogues, then left an assured life to teach and ultimately to die for you and I.

God came to this earth. He humbled himself to our level. This is the joyous news the angels told the shepherds. The advent season, the season of preparation, is a season to prepare our hearts to fully appreciate and share the joy and beauty of the Christmas season.

Now, the Christmas lights are a sign of light and of the stars that illuminate the heavens, Santa Clause, even though he has been ruined by modern society, is alright by me because I can remember the origins and know the meaning behind his red garments, and his sack of toys. Christmas music is an expression of joy and revelry, and while I still find much of it annoying, I no longer vehemently hate it as much as I did. Going to walmart in the holiday season? Well... I'm still working on finding a redeeming factor for that, but who knows what God will do with it?

All in all, this is really just me trying to remind myself and everyone else that this season is not just a time to meditate on the beauty of the Incarnation, but it is a time of joy, of rejoicing. We should not allow the bad traffic, long lines at walmart, and "happy holidays" signs everywhere keep us from remembering the joy that was announced on that first Christmas so many years ago. That joy is for "all people," not just for the people of Mary and Joseph's day.

And this joy is to be found despite the struggles of our lives. Think about it? Mary was just a young teenage girl who was away from home, in a land she'd never been to, unable to find a place to stay, forced to give birth in a stable without her mother, her best friend, or anyone else but Joseph there to comfort her or help her during the last stages of her pregnancy, the birth itself, and the tending of her son. No one was there to coach her on how to breastfeed her child. These were struggles that she had to deal with.... and she did. And she was rewarded with the joy of having her Savior resting in her arms, with kissing the face of God, and with getting to show him to those who desired to greet him. Mary and Joseph did not have a restful, relaxing, comfortable Christmas, but still, it was a time of great joy.

So, my challenge for you today, as the Advent season is drawing to a close and the Christmas season draws ever nearer, is to ask yourself if you rejoice with the holidays (and not just because finals are over). Can you find reason to rejoice and give thanks to God this Christmas? Can we turn away from the selfish mindset of this time and honestly just look at the beauty of pure, untainted joy?

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.' ...And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'" Luke 2:10-11, 13

So, let's tuck away our inner Scrooges, stuff a sock in our (or our friends') "ba-humbugs," and instead sing out, "Gaudete!"


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