Suffice it to say….

It was a decent Christmas.

The gifts were had. The sweets were eaten. The children were pleased.

They still aren’t worn out, though. My house looks like a hurricane went through it, the underneath of my eyes are dark and baggy, and yet my sweet children are still kickin’ it, energetic style. They of course have slept since Christmas, don’t get me wrong. But I’m waiting for them to hit that unseen wall of sheer exhaustion and finally run out of steam. Then maybe they will sleep in later, require an extra nap, or maybe they will just throw their arms up in the air and say, “Forget this, mommy! Let’s forego going outside in the bitter cold and instead sit around all day and eat cheese!! And while we are at it, we will help clean the house up!”

I’ll just keep waiting for that. 

The gifts were wrapped with care – and with dog hair that stuck to the tape. Because for pretty much my entire life, I cannot remember a single Christmas where dog hair (or cat hair) did not find its way into the wrapping paper or to the tape while I wrapped presents. And you know that I’m not going to go to great lengths to unwrap anything once I find the stray black piece of fur poking out from underneath of the tape.

There is stays until Christmas morning, wrapped with love.

This was the hardest Christmas that I think I have ever had. In fact, it’s probably one of very few difficult Christmases that I have ever experienced. I have been very fortunate, I have had a lot of wonderful holiday seasons. Probably more than a person deserves. I guess that as you get older it just becomes easier to find more and more reasons to be nothing but stressed come Christmas time. More and more excuses not to seek joy, not to seek peace. We’re too busy, right? We invite Christ to be a part of OUR holiday season, not the other way around. We squeeze Him in amongst the errands and the caroling and the tree picking. Instead of living in His message, we try to let Him simply coexist in our reality.

Then again, if you pursue an artificial message of Christmas it’s quite easy to grow discontent quickly. This was the first year that I in angst stared at the Christmas tree and said to myself, “why do we do this? WHY? Here, let me run around and buy the people who I love a bunch of stuff and stress myself to death about it for no reason.” Don’t get me wrong, I love buying gifts for people. I love the anticipation of seeing them open them up on Christmas morning. I love seeing THEM.

But if you find yourself in my predicament, and you’re going through the motions of Christmas without the spirit of Christmas, then it can be rather painful to get through. They seem like inconvenient formalities. Nuisances. Why decorate the outside when you feel like you’re screaming on the inside?

But isn’t Christmas is supposed to be the exception – you’re not allowed to feel glum, you’re not allowed to be grouchy, you’re supposed to tell the truth. All simply because the calendar marks December 25th. Because it’s magical and the person manning the register at Target says “Happy holidays!” and there are peppermint mocha’s at Starbucks. It’s magical because it’s magical. Right? 

You start realizing that this is but a simplified version of the season, the remaining debris left from the true meaning of Christmas as it is gradually, bit by bit, cast aside each year. You start to realize that the “magic” was paid for, with a heavy price that we couldn’t pay. Devised in a plan that we couldn’t conjure on our own. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of that stuff. I just feel like Christmas should be the one day that we don’t sell out. Christmas is the one day more than any other, save for perhaps Easter, that we should throw our hands up in the air, strip away the masks and just be. Not because I think that we should have an excuse to mistreat those that we love around us. On the contrary, when we open up, when we give in, somehow it actually succeeds in availing us to the hope that the day brings.

When I can sit there in the pew at church on Christmas Eve with a white candle in my hand, one little light in a dark room, and I can see its illumination, and I can admit that on the inside it all hurts and it doesn’t make sense and that it’s sometimes wretched and is almost always difficult, it opens me up to the meaning of the season. God’s love. God’s plan. God’s promise. God’s son. 

Our hope. 

As a dear, dear friend reminded me of recently, the first Christmas was actually kind of messy. The plans that people had for their lives were changed. There was no glamor. There was danger. And the journey didn’t get much easier from then on.

We have to be reminded what we’re being saved from. We have to be reminded of the promises spoken over us for thousands of years. We have to be reminded of the word. The Word. It’s serious business. It’s hard to get people to see what they’re being saved from, sometimes. For them to see just how big of a deal it is. And every year, with each passing Christmas, I get a glimpse of a different tile in the perfect mosaic of salvation. In those seemingly quiet happenings that probably weren’t quiet.

Born to parents who were real people, who may have struggled emotionally with doubt and depression, and who maybe didn’t know which way was up, but knew that God was sovereign. A little babe. I was terrified when giving birth to my son, in a hospital, surrounded by supportive family, doctors and iv’s. Safe. I couldn’t imagine giving birth to my first child in a stable, unwed, and unsure. A stinking, animal filled, cold stable.

It reminds us that hope is born in unseemly places, uncertain places, unexpected places. God treads upon paths and grounds that we cannot conceive.

He makes a way where there is none.

He arrives when we need Him most. Over and over again.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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