Have you ever found yourself heading into the Christmas season feeling blue? I have. In fact, this was one of those years.
I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I felt down, other than the fact that several things haven’t turned out the way I would have hoped this year. It appears some of the key measurements we set for our work at IBSA are not going to be met. In arenas outside IBSA that I care about, several decisions were made this year that were very different than what I thought best. Several people disappointed me. Even as I looked around for things I could call personal successes, well, I just couldn’t think of many.
The second factor that contributed to my blueness was just the sheer volume of work and challenges that seemed to still lay before me. After working so hard and seeing so little of the success I was looking for, it was hard to find the energy to dig in again.
In my blueness, I turned to music for some encouragement and reassurance. I found on my iPhone a playlist of 13 songs titled “Colorado Renewal 2013” that I had made two summers ago, during some personal retreat time. The first song, “Disappear,” by Bebo Norman, quickly gave expression to what I was feeling:
On a day like this I want to crawl beneath a rock
A million miles from the world, the noise, the commotion – that never seems to stop.
And on a day like this I want to run away from the routine
Run away from the daily grind that can suck the life, right out of me.
I only know one place I can run to…
A place to run to is what I was looking for. And the song didn’t disappoint.
I want to hide in You, the way, the life, the truth so I can disappear
And love is all there is to see coming out of me, and You become clear as I disappear.
For the next few minutes, I ran to Jesus, and disappeared there. I found sweet relief in the reality that Jesus’ completed work on the cross is all I need. I don’t have to earn or deserve anything more. Hidden in Him, everything returns to its proper perspective.
Then, just as the words of the first verse helped me express my discouragement, the words of the second verse helped me set a new direction, and a new motivation for the future.
I don’t want to care about earthly things
Be caught up in all the lies that trick my eyes, they say it’s all about me
I’m so tired of it being about me.
As I looked back on the things that were making me blue at Christmas time, I realized they really were all about me, and what I could accomplish or control, what I could perhaps call success. And I realized that somehow I had indeed been deceived into thinking that my work, my successes, or even my ministry were the sources of my joy.
I recently watched a documentary about Bing Crosby that credited his classic “White Christmas” with being the song that first secularized Christmas. Until then, most Christmastime songs were sacred, Christ-centered. But after White Christmas, lots of writers and composers began creating sentimental Christmas songs with someone or something other than Christ as their focus. Of course one of those was Elvis Presley’s now famous lament, that it will be a “Blue Christmas without you.”
A Christmas season that depends on successes, or other people, or anything other than Jesus is bound to be blue. Maybe that’s one reason the shepherds fled their work and their despair and their longing and “came with haste” to the manger. That’s exactly where I want to run to and disappear this Christmas.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.