by Donna Jones @donnajonesspeak
The conversation that set the event into motion went something like this: “She has nowhere to go. Do you think we should invite her to spend Christmas with us?”
What better time of the year to open our hearts and our home, than Christmas? we reasoned.
I’m excited to lovingly enfold her into our family traditions, and ensure she has a Christmas to remember.
I buy presents. I make sure she has Christmas pajamas to open on Christmas Eve, along with the rest of our family. I wrap her gifts late into the night, using carefully selected paper and coordinating ribbon.
She joins our family for the Christmas Eve service, and spends the night at our home, all cozy and warm in her new Christmas PJ’s. It feels like a holy night.
On Christmas morning, however, things take a turn.
She questions my choice of Christmas breakfast options. She wonders aloud if we’re spoiling our children with the amount of gifts they receive. I lose count of how many times I hear “Why did you do that?” and “I would have done this”. The list of complaints seems endless. Christmas isn’t at all what I’d hoped, or envisioned, or planned.
Christmas is Just. Plain. Hard.
Finally, darkness falls and desert is done. We hug her neck, close the door, and I breathe a deep, weary sigh. Relief spreads over me. And nearly as fast, so does guilt.
Am I a terrible person? I wonder to myself. Why is it so hard for me to love difficult people—even when I genuinely want to? I’m not naïve enough to believe one family Christmas with us would fix her broken pieces. I thought I simply wanted to show love—but my disappointed soul told me otherwise.
What I really wanted was to show love and have her receive love. But she didn’t know how. And I didn’t know what to do with someone who didn’t know how.
If you are like me, love feels most like love when it’s effortless, and when it’s embraced. But holy love can be hard. Love is a gift; one that is given even when someone else doesn’t take it–or worse–takes it for granted.
This holy, hard love is what Jesus offered when He traded the comforts of heaven for the constraints of humanity. In Jesus, God gave His love, even though people complain about it, misunderstand it, misuse it, or reject it.
Our houseguest isn’t the only one who has a hard time embracing love. Sometimes I do, too. How many times have I questioned God, thinking, why did you do this? or I would have done it like that? How often have I wasted blessings God lavishly purchased for me?
I suspect you can relate.
Yes, love is sometimes hard to give. But sometimes love is even harder to receive.
This hard, holy love–the kind of love extended to those who struggle to love when it’s hard, and also to those who have a hard time accepting love when it’s given–was embodied in Jesus. Jesus is God’s love gift to me. To you. To everyone.
This is the message of Christmas.
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. John 4:10 NLT
About the author: Donna Jones is a national speaker, author and pastor’s wife who is passionate about helping people know and love Jesus. The author of several books, Donna is mom to three funny, Jesus loving young adult kids who frequently sit on her kitchen counter, just to chat. Connect with Donna at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram @donnaajones.
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