It is not secret to most who know me well that I love this time of year. All of my life Christmas has been pretty special. In my family we were always busy with Christmas plays, huge Christmas parties, and sweet family traditions that have stayed in my heart long after the seasons have passed. For me it meant all of my friends were home from their various boarding schools, spending every day at the pool (I lived on the Equator…Christmas is summertime!), and anxiously anticipating the opening of Christmas packages that had arrived from friends and family in the United States.
Last night as I sat under the glow of my beautiful Christmas tree, which is covered with ornaments I have collected for years, I turned on Jim Carrey’s version of the Grinch for what has to be the 59th time. As Cindy Lou Who sang “Where are you Christmas?” in her sweet childish voice I faded into reflection of how I have echoed the words of that song for so many years. Since returning to the U.S. 17 years ago, Christmas has been a struggle. I have still participated in Living Christmas trees, Christmas plays, musicals, had parties with friends, and enjoyed the opening of packages and gifts. However, something, deep down…was missing. Like Cindy Lou-Who, I found Christmas lacking and wanted so deeply for it to come back to how it used to be.
For so many years I was out of sync with my own soul. I was trying so hard to make Christmas past be Christmas present; all the while dreading Christmas future if this was it all it really had to offer.
This year has been the first time in 17 years that I was truly excited for this season. I have decorated my house within an inch of its life. Planned parties and made gifts. And I have sat for hours in my new living room just staring at my tree. Last night as I sat and pondered what had changed, what makes this year so different than others? There are reasons… friendships I’ve craved, the feeling of being settled and finally making some place truly home, and a new tree that I have wanted for several years….but that was not quite it. And then I realized. I get it this year. IT. The real depth of what Christmas truly means to me…one who has finally, truly, rested her identity in Christ.
Over two thousand years ago Christ, my Savior, chose the most unconventional of ways to enter this world. He has been doing things completely unconventionally ever since. In my life, and in the lives of millions of others all across this planet of ours. Disrupting our plans, because His are better. Saying ‘no’ to prayers we think are good, because He has a ‘yes’ to prayers we have not yet thought to pray that have a greater promise for our best. And then He prays them FOR us! He calls the lowly and raises them up to a high calling. Transforms the lives of those we would cross the street so we would not have to touch. On and on and on in every moment in every situation, He moves unconventionally in ways that make us simply stop in awe and wonderment.
And so it is with His birth. There is this beautiful song on a favorite Christmas album with these lyrics:
A child was born on Christmas Day
Born to save the world
But long before the world began
He knew His death was sure
The pain and strife secured
Mystery, how He came
To be a man
But greater still
How His death was in His plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh, what love is this
That His death was in His hands
THAT is what I am finally getting this season. This thing which I have somehow missed for so many seasons before. I was close. I knew the language. I had the vocabulary down. I quoted the scriptures. I closed my eyes. I raised my hands. I sang the words to all of the songs. But this season I finally understand… before there was a silent night He chose me.
This Christ…He chose. He chose to come. He chose to wrap confining human flesh around a Spirit whose power could not be contained. He chose to enter this planet in a dirty, smelly stable with only farm animals as witness to His holy birth. He chose to be raised by a lowly carpenter and obedient teenage bride. He chose misfits, reprobates, and outcasts for friends, companions and disciples. He chose, at the peak of His popularity, to not go into hiding but to pray openly in the garden and say “not my will Father, but Thine,” only moments before one of his own would betray Him to those who hated him most. He chose to be beaten until He was unrecognizable, mocked by those He had created after His own image, and He chose to be slaughtered on a Cross…all of this…He.Chose…just so I could be His Bride. Overwhelmed, I sit in silent wonder finally understanding how great His LOVE.
I don’t know where you are this year. Maybe you get it. Maybe you have gotten it for years. But maybe, just maybe, you too feel “kerbobbled” like Cindy Lou Who. Maybe somewhere along the way you got lost in the packages and bows, in finding the perfect gift (or the gift that would match whatever they got you), in making sure the lights on the tree were evenly spaced and in running to the mall for that one last gift that you forgot to get your Aunt Martha. If this is you, stop….breathe in. None of that is the point. Gifts are good and fun, and lights are pretty, and family is important – yes! But greater than all of these, is the truth that before there was a silent night, He chose you.
He chose you. He loves you. Rest in that this season.
Merry Christmas my friends and family.
I love you more than you could ever possibly imagine.