What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.~Dr. Seuss
This Christmas doesn’t look like what I thought it would. I went into Advent thinking I was going to have my heart and head in it, preparing him room, singing Christmas carols and prancing around the tree, as I hung ornaments and sipped hot mocha’s surrounded by all of the twinkling lights. I wish this were true. Instead, things look quite different. The trimmings are indeed all up. My husband worked hard one afternoon to string the lights up all around the outside of the house, and it looked amazing. For the first night. Then one strand went out.
He replaced it with another.
Then another strand went.
So far, we have lost nine strands of brand new lights just purchased last year. So now they are shut off. If you drive by here at night, what you will see are simply the candles in the windows, small, little glowing orbs of yellow tucked on the sils, and a lit up Jeruselem star on the porch. That wasn’t the plan. It was supposed to be a lot more- it was supposed to be brighter.
Inside, it’s not much better. I decorated the tree with my children, but spent a good portion of time chastising them for acting like monkeys and knocking around my ‘precious’ ornaments. There’s some Christmas spirit for you. I havent sung Christmas carols because my voice is slipping and frankly, it’s hard right now to utter the words. Worship in the midst of this chaos is just proving to be harder for me this year. I know I have so much to be thankful for, and I know that worship in times of struggle is the sweetest kind. I have lived through the glory and joy that comes with singing through the tears before. And yet, my lips just tremble and my throat goes so chokingly dry as I try to whisper the words. Our tree refused to sip water and has become brittle and droopy. The ornaments are actually falling off of the tree, and If I wasn’t so perturbed about it, I might laugh, but right now, the way things are falling down around here, it’s hard to find the humor in it. As I spoke to my Mom about the shape of things around here, we decided that perhaps all of this, is just a shifting of focus. Maybe we have invested too much in the trappings. I keep saying I want Christmas to be about Christ and in every way I have just stuffed him back in the manger on the shelf.
I have built up expectations for this season and as is often the case with expectations, life plays out differently and I am left dissapointed. But that’s not God’s doing. It’s my own.
Perhaps all of this shifting and crumbling of the stuff that makes Christmas feel like Christmas is meant to get my attention. Christ came not with fanfare and twinkling lights adorning the place of his birth. He came humble- dirty, tiny, helpless, birthed from a virgin into a pile of hay. There was no glamour there. Mary was just a young girl, chosen for this huge thing and when the time came, God provided for them, of course he did, but it wasn’t what they expected, I’m sure. Things rarely turn out looking like we imagine. Our vision of life is so increadibly short-sighted, one-sided- ignorant of so much else going on.
I haven’t experienced this season the way I wanted to. I have held onto expectations that are slipping and falling off. For all of my good intentions I have failed on multiple levels. My attitude has been dim and narrow. My heart has been crammed full of junk that blocks the way. My lips crack and burn with any effort to praise and worship, and I am only now begining to see Him in this. Christmas is about Him. The lights, the tree, the endless baking- none of that really ought to matter. If it detracts from the true spirit of the season, it must be laid aside. The truth is, I have been anything but Christ-like. I have been irriable, and pouty. I have wallowed in my frustration and dissapointment over too many foolish things and I have been so tragically distracted from what Christmas is supposed to look like.
But joy came into the world and walked here. He came because I am broken and falling down. He came because He knows how misaligned my expectations are with reality. He came to make the blind see, to raise the lame to their feet, he came casting aside his holiness to live as just a person. A humble human, amid the filth and depravity of this world, a little God-baby born in secret, in the dark-to a woman pregnant out of wedlock.
This is the reason. This is what I see.
Christ looks nothing like we expect him to; A king among theives, a prince among prostitutes, a God for the godless. This whole world spins upside down on God’s axis. Less truly is more and we give in order to recieve. When we get low, he raises higher and we are blessed by his light when we walk in the darkness. In struggles we grow. When he allows the squeezing preassures of this world, we don’t shatter, we bloom.
It matters little if my house lights up in the night with the hundreds of watts of man -made glow. What matters, the only thing that matters right now, is whether my heart lights up in his presence, because it should.
If our tree stands naked and brittle in the center of the room, perhaps that’s more of what Christmas should look like anyway.
Isn’t that how he wants us to come? Without the cover of stuff–us all pregnant, cracking wide with expectations, laying down in the filth here of this broken place, awaiting the joy that will burst forth in our lives as usher Him in.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne. ~Charles Wesley
Walking with Ann and others as we discuss the practice of preparing…