My parents always tried to make Christmas special for my sister, brother and I, but the year I turned 15, things were different.
They didn’t do as well financially, and they had to make some big decisions, which, at the time, I didn’t understand. The week before Christmas we moved from my childhood home in California to Missouri.
That year, Christmas was a lot different than what I was accustomed to. We didn’t get a tree, and I didn’t even expect to get any gifts.
Christmas morning came, and as I sleepily stepped out to the family room, I was surprised to see a couple small gifts wrapped and waiting for me. It was such a contrast from all 14 of my Christmases past, when there were several gifts under our beautifully decorated tree.
It wasn’t anything big, but I will never forget that pair of snow gloves and set of watercolor paints they gave me. It was all they could afford that year, yet one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received.
My parents always tried to give me everything they could, even in the hardest times.
Those gloves and paints wore out many years ago, but what remains is my family, faith, and the lessons I learned that year to be content and to have giving heart, no matter the circumstances.
A Not-So-Grand First Christmas
Joseph and Mary also had to take a trip. It just so happened that Caesar Augustus wanted to count everyone in their hometown right around the same time Jesus was expected to be born.
They arrived in Bethlehem, with only what they could carry on the 90 mile journey from Nazareth. The streets were bustling with people, filled with visitors from all over, all there to be counted for the census.
Joseph and his wife arrived a little later than most, as they had a more difficult trip than most, needing to stop more often to allow Mary to rest. So when they tried to find a place to stay, they were only turned away, because all the inns were full.
A hotel would’ve been nice, but the only place they could find was an empty stable in a barn.
On that busy night in Bethlehem, the Savior came quietly into the world in the most lowly of places.
It wasn’t what anyone expected, especially Mary and Joseph, but they could be content knowing they still had each other and they still had their faith in God.
He made a way for them, even when the way seemed impossible.
Be Content In All Circumstances
When we learn to content in all circumstances, and to forget our preconceived expectations of what things ought to look like, God is able to do mighty works in the most unexpected ways.
If the King of Kings can be born in a manger, then I can learn to be content in all situations.
The Apostle Paul says it like this:
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
As we approach Christmas Day, let us remember that we don’t have to make it grandiose for it to be memorable. Christmas is not about the decorations, the parties, the tree or lots of presents.
It’s about the simplicity in which God shows His love for us; just like that Christmas morning many years ago, when I learned that being together was more important than any gift my parents could have bought for me.
That year they gave me all that they could, and I was content with that. They exceeded my expectations by giving me anything at all. It reminds me so much of what God does for us.
We didn’t deserve the gift of salvation. We didn’t do anything at all to earn it. But because of His great love for us, He sent His only Son, born into the world in a lowly manger, only to one day die for our sins, so that we can have eternal life.
Not only that, but He takes care of us and provides all of our needs day after day; He goes above and beyond our expectations.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20
This Christmas, let us reflect on God’s goodness, praying and thanking Him for all He has done for us. Let us set aside our expectations and let us come together as one, being content to have our family and our faith.