"The only worry children have about Christmas is whether or not they can possibly wait for it to arrive. Perhaps this is because only kids seem to understand the secret of Christmas: It isn’t really about giving; it is about receiving.
According to the Gospels, the only person giving at Christmas is God. Everyone else is simply receiving this silent, holy miracle that breaks into the night. Much later a few wise men show up with gifts, but their giving is only as an act of worship in response to what God has given us.
Christmas is a poignant illustration of a dynamic we live with every day of our lives: we spend most of our lives trying to make things happen for ourselves and for the people we love. But life is not reduced to what you give or know or achieve. Nor is it reduced to your mistakes, your failures, or your sin. Life isn’t even defined by whom you love. Rather, it is defined by the God who loves you. In other words, you are not he central character—not even of your own life’s story. This is not meant to demean you; it is meant to set you free."
(Sacred Thirst by M. Craig Barnes)
Every Christmas since I was a baby was spent at my grandmother's house on my dad's side...and Christmas at my grandmother's house was a BIG deal. My grandmother passed away this summer and there is an estate sale going on at the house that I know to be lit up with Christmas lights and decorations and family this time of year. My mom, unlike my grandmother, has never really been big on Christmas. It usually takes a lot of begging from me for her to even bother with a Christmas tree. But this year we didn't bother. We didn't bother with Christmas lights or decorations. We didn't even bother with Christmas presents. Our family's only Christmas tradition has been to go to the midnight candlelight service at a church down the street from our house, but this year we didn't even do that. I went to church by myself on Christmas Eve.
All that to say, this Christmas has been different to say the least. But this Christmas has felt more like Christmas than any I have known before. This season of Advent has been a hard one for me. I was READY for Jesus to come. To come and heal my in-pain heart. To come into my lonliness. To come into my broken and oh so dysfunctional family. To come into the relationships I have made messes of (and there is many). To come into my insecurities. Just to come save me!!! I have become aware of my groaning and longing and waiting so much more deeply than ever before. However, along with the groaning and longing and waiting was the excitement and joy of knowing that I was doing it all in expectation of receiving the best gift I could ever ask for, and I almost couldn't wait to open it!!!! It took all that I had to leave the gift unwrapped but it made opening it today sooooo much more than I could have dreamed! Today was not defined by what I got or did or said. It was not even defined by who I did or didn't spend it with. But today was defined by a baby that laid wrapped in dirty cloth in a dirty manger in a dirty stable. Today was defined by the GOD WHO LOVES ME enough to COME. To come after me and to rescue me and to SAVE me! Hallelujah, WHAT A SAVIOR!
Merriest of Christmases to you, my people!