“Christmas says that we have everything going [for us] — Jesus, the journey and the dream.”
Something feels different this year. It’s a little difficult to put my finger all the way on it, but as I sung some of my very favorite carols yesterday morning — O Holy Night, I never get over you — I felt the joy rising, and I was singing so loud in the pew, and I couldn’t help myself.
I wasn’t thinking about how much I have left to do or when will we get our tree or what I will buy for so-and-so. I wasn’t seeing this season so much as a destination, but as a journey.
For Mary and Joseph took a long journey, from an angel’s proclamation to the potential for disgrace to a dream to that stable on a long ago night. Mary, swollen with life, jostled on a donkey’s back and then gave birth with only her husband to attend her.
Wednesday morning I held the mystery and then belted it out, the reason I sing.
I sing for my Jesus.
The One who freed me from self-despising and wounds cutting deep and the unending quest to be perfect, who delivers me again and again from my mistakes and my worry and my striving and who reminds me I am loved, even when I feel undeserving. Yes, especially then.
Yesterday morning while I proclaimed the deliverance loud with my voice, I also held deep the tenderness of that God man.
The one who willingly came as the most vulnerable of earthly beings to identify with our fragility, who came into the most humble of stations to proclaim the upside down beauty of the poor and forgotten, the one who came to proclaim life while he lay down his own.
I was thinking of Emanuel, God with Us.
And these truths are the same as they have been and will be forever, so I’m wondering what is different this year?
Perhaps it’s partly in choosing to receive the still and the wait.
Partly in my desire working its way out from the inside to choose first, joy, and not anxiety this Advent, this season of coming.
Maybe it’s the little things like allowing Christmas carols to wash over me and choosing to hear them new, though fall branches still grace the corners of my house, and there’s nary an evergreen bough in sight. Maybe it’s in seeing the miraculous little red berries on the tree outside and the imperfect picture of them as decoration enough for today.
Maybe it’s the intention to give my presence and not stuff. Maybe it’s sitting on the couch to read a Christmas book with my girls or laugh hard with them, while my old self’s scream — “Look at this place…there’s so much to do!” — fades slowly into the background.
Each night, as we light the candles, we remember the light that pierced darkness and does again and again. The light that breaks through the dark of this world. The big wide world. And also the darkness of me, of my expectations, my judgments, my selfishness, my attempts to perform well enough, at any cost.
When we light the candles, we are remembering the hope, the dream, the story.
Yes, we are remembering Jesus.
And when I freak out over a dropped ornament or a white elephant forgotten or a grumbling attitude when I want it to be perfect, dangit, I will try to remember the simplicity of the baby in rags in the hay and the one who came to settle in the midst of my mess, too.
This mess right here.
And I will try to recall the one who came for the vulnerable, the tired and weary, the broken and breaking, even when that’s me.
When the world screams, buy, do, more, more, faster, faster, my heart will choose again to receive the newborn king and the glad tidings of comfort and joy and, ah, still.
And I will proclaim that good news to myself, the good news to you if you’ll listen. Of light breaking through dark, of peace for the chaos, of rescue for the hurting, of the jubilee and the holy night filled with great wonder and joy.