Holiday confession: Our tree is tiny and looks like Charlie Brown may have rejected it. I have not baked a single cookie. And there is no Christmas card coming.
We’ve officially been immersed in “Christmas season” now for a couple of weeks, some of us more. It seems like, as the years pass, “Christmas” comes earlier every year. There are lights and banners downtown. Many of us already sent our pictures and letters highlighting our year’s events. I finished shopping and wrapping…because going small and doing it online are quite helpful. We’ve decorated our home. The kids have tiny trees in their rooms and the beloved Fisher Price nativity set is in its prominent place on our coffee table. What began as a few paper snowflakes on my window, has turned into a blizzard! I pulled a book out a few days ago, recounting to my husband (much to his delight, I’m sure. Ha!) how I memorized one of its entries for a 7th grade speech competition. I even snagged bright red snow bibs at Goodwill, for my youngest, for $2.99! As the kids have gotten older, they are more invested and interested in anticipating the day. Handmade gifts are carefully displayed under our tree. They keep trying to convince me that I can put presents under the tree also, but I know they would accidentally be opened before Christmas…because I am their mother. And I’ve tried it all!
While I really love anticipating these celebrations, there is the nagging reality of adulthood too. Christmas songs make me cry. Bills have to still be paid. Families cannot always be together and are far apart. Friends are still sick. Even when you put out twinkling lights and hang mistletoe, life still hurts. You just feel a little more awkward about hurting when the world is dressed up and there is supposed to be peace for everyone.
Somehow, in our minds, the problems or challenges of our year were supposed to be wrapped up by December. What are we to do when we cannot bring ourselves to sing one more song, bake one more cookie, or RSVP for one more holiday gathering?
God with us.
I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to believe that first Christmas was not how Mary planned either. I don’t know about you, but at 9 months pregnant, there’s no way you would have been seeing me on the back of a donkey for countless miles. And a dark, dirty, cave-like stable was most likely not at the top of her birth plan! This young girl did not go into that year planning that this would be the year of a ruined reputation, of leaving her home, of being pregnant, or of delivering her baby in a stable…only to be fleeing in the middle of the night (later on) to save her baby from cruel government authorities. Jesus’ mother knew a thing or two about lost dreams and blinding fear.
But in the midst of lost dreams, Jesus came. And, in her most painful moment, God opened the heavens for an ordinary girl to see His glorious display. She may not have understood what He was doing, but her sacrifice was exchanged for a miracle.
As she embarked on her new calling…EMMANUEL. As she cried the tears of loss and gain all at once…EMMANUEL. As she relinquished her plans…EMMANUEL. As she did not know what to do…EMMANUEL. As she literally rejoiced with angels…EMMANUEL. As she met royalty who had waited for her son (a son whom she did not plan)…EMMANUEL. As she would flee in the night…EMMANUEL. As her husband would die sometime before her (Scripture does not tell us more.)…EMMANUEL. As she would love a son who would be poured out for the whole world…EMMANUEL.
In the moments of rejoicing and in the overwhelming moments of great struggle, God was in her midst.
This Christmas when your sadness floods over you or your fear is suffocating…EMMANUEL. You do not have to do one more thing. God is with you. It is not about having a perfect tree or hanging beautiful stockings on a mantel (We don’t even have a mantel this year!). It is not about buying extravagant gifts. It’s not even about sending out beautiful pictures or joyfully attending one. more. party.
You can rejoice in the midst of your weariness…EMMANUEL. You can have hope…EMMANUEL. You can take one more step…EMMANUEL. You can give Him your dreams and let Him exchange them for His plan…EMMANUEL.
God is with you. “For NOTHING is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
*You can read the entire account of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. The book of Luke, chapters 1 and into 2, are my favorite.