Better Than a Norman Rockwell Christmas

What sort of emotion does the Christmas season stir in you? For some of us, the Christmas season is a welcome time of gathering together with loved ones, a time of remembering our shared family life together, a time filled with surprises, sharing, and love. For some, Christmas means special days filled with sensory delights: cinnamon-laced cider steaming on the stove, pine branches sparkling with twinkling lights, crisp nights walking hand-in-hand with gloved little ones through neighborhoods decked out with snowmen and nativity scenes.

The mirage of that Norman Rockwell Christmas haunts us with feelings of isolation and inadequacy.

Yes, for many of us, the Christmas season really does seem like "good news of great joy" (Luke 2:10). But for those of us whose lives don't seem to mirror that quintessential Norman Rockwell painting, Christmas can seem like a cruel joke—a time when everything wrong with our lives is incessantly broadcast on every billboard.

It is easy for women whose lives are solitary and filled with work, work, and more work; with cold, empty houses; with toy shopping that extends only to nieces and nephews to look at married women and think, "Christmas would be a time of joy if I had her family."

But many married women look at others and think, Christmas would be a time of joy if I just had her life, her children, that kind of husband, or her house. If I could just bake like she does, if my children were really grateful or lived nearer to me, or if my husband still loved me, my life would be better.

On and on, the mirage of that Norman Rockwell Christmas haunts us with feelings of isolation and inadequacy, telling us we're missing out—that in fact, no matter how many people are around us, we're actually completely alone.

He has come to dwell with us, to become One of us, to be our Husband forever.

But Christmas should tell us nothing is further from the truth: true Love is standing right in front of us, proclaiming that He is Immanuel. He has come to dwell with us, to become One of us, to be our Husband forever.

How do we know we're not alone? What can assure our hearts when the very Christmas celebration that's the answer to our alienation and isolation has been co-opted by self-deceived hearts?

We've got to go back to the real message of Christ—back before those nostalgic Rockwell paintings, back even before the early church sang hymns proclaiming, "He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels . . ." (1 Tim. 3:16). We've got to remember how Christ has always loved us and how His love for us today is the answer to every longing for love we have.

Before time, God the Father and God the Son made a pact. Their covenant was that "in the fullness of time" God would send forth his Son, "born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption . . ." (Gal. 4:4–5), so we would know we are not alone. He was sent so every law we broke would be obeyed by Christ as He lived perfectly and died wretchedly in our place.

What on earth is the Son of God doing shivering there, covered in amniotic fluid and wrapped in coarse rags, lying in a feeding trough, dependent on a weak girl and her husband for His very life? Why does the Word incarnate have to learn language and table manners? Why is He submitting Himself to flawed parents? Why is He being baptized in a muddy river and starving in the wilderness while He defeats Satan's wicked attack? Why is He having dinner with a Pharisee while an immoral woman kisses His feet? Why is He shamed and humiliated, stripped and beaten, nailed to a cross and deserted by His Father?

You are loved today, and this love is so much better than anything Norman Rockwell ever painted.

Why? So that right now—and all during this season—you can know that you are not now, nor ever will be, alone. All those things you have done, that would have necessitated your being exiled and isolated from Him, were forgiven so you could receive Jesus' perfect record of always obeying, always loving. You are loved today, and this love is so much better than anything Norman Rockwell ever painted. It's Christ the incarnate Son who is your Husband. Rejoice!

Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Jessica Thompson, have teamed up to write an advent devotional for adults and children. The devotional is designed to be used December 1 through Christmas day. It includes four activities—one for each week—and instructions for lighting your advent candles. Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional is now available for purchase on Amazon.

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About the Author

Elyse Fitzpatrick

Elyse Fitzpatrick

Elyse and her husband, Phil, have been married nearly four decades. They have three children and six really adorable grandchildren. Elyse has a Master's Degree in Biblical Counseling, is the author of sixteen books, and is a frequent retreat and conference speaker. Together with her husband she worships at Valley Center Community Church in Southern California, where he is an elder.

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