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Christmas is a heightened time of year. Everything is heightened. The music plays louder. The lights shine brighter. The kitchens are busier and the bar stools are full. Kids are on hyper drive, churches packed, traffic intense, and memories –are all of the above. In this heightened experience people go through their best and worst time of the year.

 

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace, reconnecting with loved ones, blissful surprises and scrumptious treats. Can I get an “amen” for all the moms out there that scarcely have time to shower while trying to make all that happen?! Being everything to everyone is what moms do best but there comes a point you find yourself crying over a missed parking spot and suddenly realize that you lost your marbles sometime in November.

 

It is hyped up to be the season where we pour out gifts on those we love the most (and let’s face it -those who we are obligated to buy for) as though this one gift will re-assure them of all they mean to us. But what if the budget can’t be stretched for Christmas? What if your heart is in it but your bank account is not and you are tired of producing epic fails on DIY Pinterest crafts? In times like that, Christmas can feel like a millstone around the neck. It becomes a game of trying to keep up with all the expectations so as to not lose your right to privacy.  Yes, that’s how the game is played. If you can blend in well enough to not sound any financial alarm bells, you won’t have to answer the inevitable list of questions from those who heard you back out. Do this, and your privacy remains intact. Do this, and those around you are still convinced of your love.

 

We hear songs about being home for the holidays and our hearts get warm fuzzies. But what if everyone cannot be home? What if someone dear to us will never be home again? If there has been a loss in the family, then walking through the steps of tradition can be a constant battlefield of the mind. Every item, every gathering reminds you of the gaping hole left in your heart …and yet you must move forward. The only way out of the trench is to plow the tough ground of creating a new “normal”.

 

Getting together with all the relatives can bring some mixed emotions too. If your entire family gets along well, I would like to say you are a rarity. Many don’t. Trying to let go of past hurts and embrace a chance to make positive memories can require more strength and courage than any event of the year. During the rest of the year people generally hang with who they chose. At Christmas we make a point of staying in touch with everyone else too. Sometimes that’s a blessing. Sometimes that’s a battlefield.

 

If you don’t celebrate the holidays the same way that everyone else does, it can be a time of being labeled, judged or misunderstood. Even within the Christian church there are many differences in opinion about whether Christmas is the best way to celebrate the birth of our Jesus, or whether we are just blindly following pagan traditions. There are differences about how to handle the “Santa” topic while raising children, and I could go on.

 

In the midst of all this heightened activity …or confusion, what do we know for sure?

 

We know that at some point (probably in early autumn) 2014 years ago, our God did something so selfless it is almost unthinkable. He gave up His place in paradise to come and be a part of our mess, teach us, love us, and offer us a rescue plan that is so beautiful it still turns lives upside down. That is worth celebrating all year around!  As for the details of how we go about that, we treat each other with the same respect and love He has bestowed on us.

 

As for the gift frenzy, let’s remember that our kids will know by our example whether our lives are laid out to pursuing Jesus or pursuing the material gods of this world. And God knows what obligations we face. He is our provider, always. (Philippians 4:19) If we allow Him to guide us it becomes a whole different kind of game. We watch as He leads us, and provides, knowing what is needed to honor those around us.

 

The busyness can be suffocating. But it helps to put it in perspective. So much of what we do this time of year is cultural traditions and nothing more. It is important to check and see if something is in the Bible before stressing out the family to defend what has become holy in our minds.

 

He is still the same God who applauded Mary for taking time to sit with Him when there was so much calling her name to be done. (Luke 10) Even five minutes can go a long way. Sometimes it makes the difference whether our minds are reconnected with the only one who can speak peace to the storm or whether the boat just keeps taking on water.

 

I love that His promises never change! Our lives can look chaotic but He is always inviting us to “Be still and know” for a moment. (Psalm 46:10) He is still the amazing God that will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:15)

 

There will be times when those who should be present cannot be. There will be times when those who should be loving towards us are not. The good news is His means of loving us is never dependant on those around us. He will meet the need. Look for his love through any means he sends it. Be it through the back rub of a small child, the snuggle of an animal, his written word, or his presence surrounding our quiet space, he says it over and over again, “I love you. I love you! You are worth my all. I will fill the void.”  

 

Today, I learned in church that when Jesus was born into Bethlehem it was during a famine. Isn’t that amazing? The Christ who said, “I am the bread of life” was born into a famine. How fitting. Some things never change. He is still the only thing that satisfies.

 

He will never leave us or forsake us. He is still our provider.  He is still our satisfaction. And He still goes out of this way to join us in dark and messy places, just like the stable.

 

For those who have never raised barn animals, I know a stable can seem adorable but I assure you that is only the case in a nativity set. That stable may have provided a temporary shelter and warmth but rest assured that wherever a bunch of barn animals live, there is poo, and lots of it. Their noses drip snot. They drool mucus. They shed. They don’t wipe and they don’t flush. Isn’t it amazing that He first joined us in such a messy place?

 

He still joins us in the mess. Even when Christmas gets messy, when relationships break down, or we get stressed out on all the wrong priorities, He still calls out to join us in the mess and bring peace to our world.

 

His radical love is never based on our performance. It’s not based on how many decorations are hung. It’s not even based on how much we manage to avoid our familiar sins. He would still do it all over again.

 

He volunteered to join us in the mess and lay down His life for ours, that we may truly live, even at Christmas time.

 

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Posted by: Anna Wozniak
Posted on: 12/22/2014 at 6:14 AM
Tags: , , ,
Categories: Christmas/Holidays
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