In all its celebration of the best, Christmas still has a way of exposing…reality.

Take last Wednesday. The goal: 12 canning jars of sand-art brownies for my kids’ teachers. And of course, to make a memory.

But as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes my memory-making can go a little differently than I saw it going in my head. In this case, I struggled to hear Pandora’s Christmas music above, oh, my children yelling at each other. (And, uh, me raising my voice back.) And my cries of “Don’t eat that! You don’t want to give your teachers the gift of sickness! Go wash your hands with soap!”

Thankfully–admittedly after some prayer–we ended on a high note: pulling in the sulky teenager and turning him into a happy one; kids excited about the project. Oh, and this! (Ooh! Aah!)

And of course this. I repeat: Pinterest mom I am not.

The Snow’s Always Whiter on the Other Side

This year, I’m understanding that Christmas–like the rest of me–will likely always feel pulled in two different directions.

When I was overseas, I struggled to “feel” Christmas amidst the lack of all the sensory cues. I mean, it was 80 degrees. There were no light displays (even obnoxious ones), yuletide carols being sung by a choir, no parties (um, at least to which I was invited!?), no Necco wafers scalloping gingerbread roofs, no corn syrup, or Gingerbread Lattes, or Salvation Army bell-ringers. It was kind of a DIY holiday.

But here, now that I even live in a place with SNOW (YAY!), I’m remembering the elaborate opportunities for a lean, generous Christmas in Uganda. The poor were everywhere. Somehow being able to give in a very physical way–with fewer, more intentional gifts under our Charlie-brown tree–felt more like Christmas than ever. Slam this into the lump of my losses this year, and honestly, I find myself struggling to “feel” Christmas this year, even in the religious sense.

But my Christmas “feelings” aren’t really what it’s about, I’m noticing. The opportunity to celebrate God’s elaborate, killer rescue plan isn’t really about…me. Or the way I saw things going.

Mary Breaks It Down

In my attempt to savor the Jesus in my Christmas, I found myself in Luke 1 yesterday, honing in on one of my favorite Christmas verses. There’s something about me that’s fascinated by this teenaged girl responding emphatically, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Memos to me from Mary:

  • She’s saying. This is my voluntary wish that you do what you want with me. Make it so. In the Greek, her words are confident. The equivalent (can I say this?) of “Heck, yes!”
  • Her plans have been derailed. Yet–or even, and so–she worships. I think of Job doing the same thing. He fell to his face in the midst of what he’s lost, and choosing worship.

I hear this in Paul David Tripp’s words that I reread this morning.

We pull the borders of our concerns into the narrow confines of what we want, what we feel, what we dream, and what we think we need.

A good day is a day that is pleasurable or easy for me. A good circumstance is one in which I get my way. A good marriage is one in which my spouse becomes a servant to my dream for my life…A good job is one that keeps me happy and engaged.

It is a life shaped by a shrunken kingdom of one.

But the first four words of the Bible confront us with the inescapable reality that it is not all about us. They confront us with the truth that life comes from, is controlled by, and exists for another. We will never be at the center because God is. It will never be about us because it’s about him. Our will won’t be done because his will will be done… Our kingdom won’t come because his kingdom will.*

The Not-yet

The glitz of Christmas can still cast its glow on the piles of dirty snow at the side of the road. Or on our kids’ entitlement. Family members who go home…or occasionally we wish they would a little faster. And for those who’ve experienced profound loss this year, Christmas can feel like playing sleigh bells beside the silent chair at the table.

Grief is real. There’s a lot that isn’t yet right.

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Christmas–Jesus–is my road to the world I was made for. All of what’s “not right” reminds me of the promises for “not right now”: that because of Christmas, I have something to sing about: Both from Christmas past, for Christmas present, and for Christmas future.

So we do not lose heart.

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18


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*Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Gospel Devotional

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