“Are you excited for Christmas?”
I ducked my head, suddenly interested in the specks at the bottom of my mug of passion fruit tea.
As the silence drew long, I finally met her gaze. No use hiding, I thought to myself.
“Not really,” I admitted.
Her eyebrows shot up, but her eyes softened. “Why is that?” she asked.
I took a deep breath and let the memories wash over me.
Raised voices as we rolled the dough…
Thick tension as we hung the tinsel…
Sharp words as we drove to Christmas service…
But interlaced with these bitter moments were some sweet scenes too. And I couldn’t help but linger on them as they surfaced one by one.
…Polished boots awaiting St. Nick’s generous gifts of chocolates and candies.
…Mischievous grins worn by teenage boys dressed as magi in their first-ever Christmas pageant.
…Romanian carols sung aloud on the streets and whispered reverently in cathedrals.
Sometimes our childhoods are like stained-glass windows, shattered pieces assembled to reveal beautiful mosaics. I was a missionary kid in Romania for ten years and witnessed God do amazing things among the Gypsy people. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything, but that doesn’t mean it was perfect.
Underneath the guise of our picture-perfect family was an undercurrent of deep dysfunction that unraveled my parents’ marriage and ministry. There’s pain in those broken parts — a pain I didn’t want to pass on to my own children.
“Honestly,” I whispered, “I’m kind of anxious about Christmas.” I felt a lump form in my throat as I retold the stories.
“Asheritah,” she said, leaning across the table. “You can start fresh. When you create new traditions for your children, you’ll learn to reclaim the joy of Christmas.”
So I began, prayerfully asking the Lord to guide me in my quest for Christmas joy. One day, He led me to the names of Jesus, and I spent the Advent season that year pouring over His names like a little girl pours over an American Girl catalog.
Advent means coming, a season marked by the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, observed by the church for centuries and meant to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I don’t know which name I started with, but as the days rolled into weeks, I found myself immersed in the study of Jesus. Son of Man. King of Kings. Great High Priest. Emmanuel.
Like twirling a brilliant-cut diamond in sunlight, meditating on Jesus’ names leads us to admire the many facets of His character, each beautiful on its own, but when put together comprise a breathtaking picture of the Son of God made man for us.
As I unwrapped His names one by one, I found myself, like David, gazing upon the beauty of the Lord day by day and delighting in His presence (see Psalm 27:4).
That was three years ago, and my friend was right. Just like a little child anticipating Christmas morning, I awoke excited for each new day of Advent, every name bringing me a step closer to celebrating His birth. Because when we unwrap the names of Jesus, we rediscover the joy of Christmas.
He who is our Good Shepherd heals childhood wounds with the ointment of His presence. The Resurrection and the Life brings life to deadened parts of our souls. The Alpha and Omega gives us opportunities to start afresh, reclaiming the joy of Christmas as we begin new traditions.
This year, my two toddlers and I will color the paper ornaments my husband drew to represent each name of Jesus, and we’ll hang them on our tree.
We’ll play treasure hunt with our favorite Christmas carols as we try to spot His names.
And we’ll write Christmas cards to bring the joy of His Names into the homes of our loved ones around the world.
Unwrapping the names of Jesus offers us the gift of hope, joy, and love as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.
In this season of Advent, what name of Jesus do you find a comfort?