I’m not asking for a hard earned,”A” in Patho this Christmas. Maybe that was just a dream, anyway.
Or the Tory Burch shoes I had been saving up for. Thats all to boot.
Really I don’t even think I could use that pair of pants I thought I needed, or that list of bookmarked sale curtains at Anthropologie I considered to be somewhat reasonably, remotely priced.
Pretty things, useful things, shiny things, needed things, innovative things, at the end of the day these are all just things.
This Christmas season I was beginning to ache. I knew it was going to be different, but I wasn’t sure how many dinners with our family running a thousand directions and warm weather I could take. For the first time in 21 years of life, I picked out my own present (a puppy!) and prepared for my stocking to be empty besides last year’s candy canes and no presents to be under the tree. It was grim in my head. Each time my mom cheered, “We’re doing Christmas differently this year! It’s not about gifts!” my stomach churned a little. I didn’t want a different Christmas. I wanted presents, big bows, and a tummy full of sugar cookies. There was nothing wrong with the way the past 2 decades had happened, and I was comfortable, grateful for those and wanted it to stay just the same.
In my heart, I know what Christmas is about. But my flesh isn’t ready to let go of the gingerbread houses, fruit garlands, gold paper, and big red bows that spill out from underneath the hem of the tree every year. Every year, I feel guilty for having more than I know I deserve, and yet find myself still wishing and hoping for more the day after which, ironically, is my birthday.
These were, after all, well deserved gifts. We work hard for our glory-filled Christmas. We deserved those gingerbread houses and a tree thats tippy top bends with the weight of the angel, and beneath the slant of the roof because of its too-tall limbs.
What we deserve is punishment, death, and a life void of all the things we think we have earned. In order to realize what we have, we first have to realize where we come from. And where we would be if not for this Christmas miracle.
What we get is grace. A chance to receive it. Grace for another Christmas season, for another chance to give something to people who need encouragement, support, affirmation. Grace for another chance to see Him, despite 2 decades of missed opportunity. Grace to open our Bibles when we don’t even know where to begin again. Grace for when we view our love as conditional and He defines unconditional love. Grace to awaken to our surroundings and realize what we are already surrounded by. Not a wish. Its a celebration of what we’ve already been given not what possessions we’ve got.
And it’s a chance to share Jesus with those around us.
My biggest regrets in life don’t include wishing I had stayed up later, willing myself to go to that date party or that social function, wishing I had bought that sequin mini dress, or kicking myself for spending that summer baking and breaking bread in Africa instead of a romantic summer studying abroad with my best friends in Italy.
They include passing by a young mother clearly struggling in the middle of a downpour, the homeless Santa that I chastise internally for spending his few pennies on a santa suit instead of real clothes, choosing not to speak with someone, for not sharing Jesus with Topista, and for the moments that I have failed my friends and family in various ways.
A friend of a friend’s is sick with more disease then I can imagine…another one. And it just feels so hopeless, all of it. But we know it isn’t. Nothing filled with Jesus is laking hope. And she has Him. The more times it happens, my heart breaks no less. The 5 kids, the Christmas spirit, the physical pain. The realization that no amount of money, donate button, or paypal account can give her what she needs. But our faith is in God. And in all of this she just wants to live. To say that Jesus offers eternal life seems small and insignificant compared to the despairing situation. But I say it anyways and it rings true in my own ears. That is the gift that lasts.
He does. And he brings hope. Hope for a miracle and hope to get through today, and tomorrow. He even grants us hope to carry us through next week and all the way beyond next semester and so far around the bend that we shut our eyes because we can’t see that far. He promises for his grace to always be present, to always be sufficient, and to always be enough.
He doesn’t promise us situations beyond that, but he promises to carry us whatever they may bring. He instead promises hardship, but in that hard place He promises to reveal more of Himself. That is his gift. His very Son, is his gift. What’s more, is that mysteriously, miraculously, this hope brings us joy. And that is a glory-filled Christmas.
I hope you don’t find this as another Christmas post, but that it holds true for you. That the best gift I can give someone is to be Christ to them, be transparent enough that He may be greater, it’s all I can offer. Its the best anyone can offer. Days we will fail and it will require more awareness and confidence of His strong arms in our debilitated state. And that I learn to receive that gift and humbly kneel at the base of the manger in gratitude for this gift instead of wishing for more. To sit by my tree and marvel at His goodness of provision in my very life instead of a bulk of glittering gifts. To rejoice in the fact that a dirty baby, is the light of the world. That we may eat, drink, and be merry in celebration for this gift, not my new pair of Frye boots and big fancy camera. This is the fullness of stockings and a multitude of gratitude beneath the tree. That we learn to dwell in a place of deep admission and acceptance for the hope offered, and we learn to place aside stockings, garland and perfectly iced Christmas cookies in hopes of a great season and instead pick up and cling to the hope offered in the gift we’ve already gained.
“You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.” (1 Peter 1:8 NLT)