We have had this beautiful pre-lit tree for 8 years now, and the last two Christmas’ the lights have gone out. I keep working hard to keep it beautifully lit, and it insists on not cooperating. I get one section working or replaced, and another section goes out. I want to give up.
That’s often how Christmas is for me. A fight to keep it beautiful and okay. And I want to give up.
Christmas comes with such a tension for me. It’s paradoxical ways leave me feeling most perplexed and even frustrated.
Ever since I was a child I loved Christmas. Not just the gifts, lights, and music. I loved the sense of hope. As a young child, I remember never really believing in Santa Clause, but desperately wishing it was true. Because he seemed so good, and things would be so good if he were real.
As I grew, that wishful hope transferred into my relationship with Christ. My little heart worried and fretted about the cares of this world, just as my adult heart takes them on. But as I learned more about Jesus, I began to learn He held the key to my wishful hope that all would be and feel well.
Christmas was not neat and tidy as a child. It reeked of grief and sadness, stress and strife. Whether dysfunctional family dynamics or the sorrowful loss that caused pain in the missing-Christmas was not all joy.
Now years later as an adult with children myself, I find moments that grossly mimic those of my childhood and I hate myself for it. I desperately want to protect my children from my own pain, from the stress of this life. And, yet, I fail. My husband fails, and Christmas becomes messy.
And the messier it becomes, the angrier I feel. The angrier I feel, the more I resent the Christ I serve. Hope, you say. What hope? I feel anything but hopeful. Light? All I see and feel is darkness. This particular year, it’s the pain of missing. Missing loved ones, missing comfort and stability. Missing stable finances. Missing family members and friends that live else where. Missing hope.
And, then, at some point, I get angry enough that I find a way to color the hope of Christ with my anger. Scribbling away peace and light, and all that comes with the promise of Christmas in this advent season.
That’s a lot of pressure placed on one holiday season. And, we should always remember what Christmas represents-the coming of this Christ-child, the One who was sent and came to be WITH us, Emmanuel. But, I have always wanted Christmas to be a re-centering, a reorientation of sorts. And, yet, Christmas fails me - or better yet - I fail Christmas. I humorously realize this is why I identify so much with Cindy Lou Who on The Grinch,.
Some years the messiness and strife comes because I’m working too hard - trying to make a perfect, Hallmark holiday. Most years, it’s the grief that fully never goes away from loss. And always, it’s the loneliness.
This year, I haven’t even been able to breathe between work and ministry and family, let alone worry about all of the “trappings” of the holidays. And, while good things are happening, we are still struggling with transitions, changes, and other emotions in this season.
If I’m honest, I find myself angry and slightly apathetic. Emmanuel, God with us, in fact, feels very far away. I’m tired and weary, and I just feel all sacrificed out. I feel abandoned by God and while I am fully aware this is not true, this is how I FEEL.
This year has been hard and difficult, and it has been messy. There was nothing that ever promised this would be an easy journey, and I fully anticipated the hard. And, yet, there was no way I could fully anticipate the grief. Grief that looks and feels eerily similar. And, I hated that grief. It’s the deep dark of grieving the loss of something so dear.
In the crudeness of my heart, a heart that feels wounded and abandoned, a heart that struggles to feel at all hopeful, a heart that just seems very broken in all of the ways it’s failed - I just think - it’s not fitting for a King. In all of His beauty and glory, this heart is just too messy to house the King of the World.
He may not be able to handle the questions, the confusion, and doubt that seems to sneak in and set camp. Can this God-this Savior of the World really make a home alongside of my mess?
I realize, in these struggles so great, I must think it’s not a place for Him. It’s in these moments, I push and pull away. I somehow find myself, inadvertently, saying this is no place for you. This darkness, it’s too dark for you. I build up a wall of protection, seemingly afraid that He just won’t be able to handle the intensity of the feelings that seem to battle in my soul. It’s as though I am saying, Jesus-you are just too good-too hopeful to be at home here, I’m just sorry. Or maybe I am not sorry, because I am just angry at you too, and there is certainly no place for that anger.
And, yet, Christmas. The Word was light and was made flesh and came to dwell among us. He came to dwell. In the midst of my brokenness? Is it possible? The first breaths of life, crying into the stillness of the night - in a crude stable, air thick with the most unpleasant of smells. Filthy grime of dirty animals and hay. Cold and lonely. Messy. Rejected, unwanted, and ignored. It seems the Messiah came to specialize in this sort of condition.
Is it possible that He specializes in brokenness - so much so that He can make a home in the midst of mine? If I can give Him just a little room-will He come to dwell even in the darkness of my soul?
And then, there is a little flicker of hope...but God...
He did come in the messy. Dirty streets and smells, he humbly lay. It was planned and foretold, he would not come in glorious riches and splendor. He would come in the quiet, the dark, and the dirty.
Angels celebrated, rejoiced and told of His coming. But He didn't come with His mother riding into town on a white horse - displaying Him as a King for all to see. No, they rode on a donkey, to Bethlehem, discovering not even an inn to house them. Just a mere, dirty stable.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1
He came out of a family line likened to stump, a root. A root, a line that was all but dried up and gone. But his coming, out of this dry root, promised life and hope. It would bear fruit, and not just a little fruit, but fruit that would multiply in abundance.
God could have chosen a better family line. A family line that held more promise and royalty. A line that was full of life and vitality.
Even as one who lives her life to tell the story of Jesus Christ, I fight the temptation to reject the goodness of Jesus. Because, most often, I just feel too broken - too faithless. My past and present struggles too big. And, yet, He came out of brokenness. He came through rejection. He knew temptation. He knew sacrifice. And He came FOR me and you. He came as light, and the darkness can not overcome it. Ever. Our darkness will never to be too dark.
He came to “pitch” His tent in the midst of the mess of this broken world. And He desires to make a home in the midst of the mess of my heart.
The level of my brokenness this past year as I have struggled to process, transition, and surrender is almost an embarrassment. I fight to not be overcome by the shame that the enemy of soul throws my way.
I guess this Christmas, I am reminded that there is no level of failure and brokenness that is too great. There is no amount of anger and fight that Jesus can’t forgive and speak peace over. There is no amount of mess that will cause Jesus to refuse to dwell. He lives intrinsically motivated to forgive, love, and restore.
And, maybe-just maybe, the knowledge of all of this is enough to stop running. Maybe, this Christmas, we can accept and celebrate that Jesus came in the messy for the messy. He is big enough, gracious enough, to make a home in the midst of the brokenness of my life. And in His patient kindness, He can lead me to repentance and peace. He can help me cease the fight, and eventually, lead me to surrender. And not just surrender in action, but surrender of the heart.
My Christmas season may be messy and a little broken, but I will find hope in the One who came to dwell among us. He purposed to come for our restoration and peace. And, for now, that will be enough.