Not the Christmas Eve I had imagined. A stomach bug full of aches, chills, and every sort of stomach ickiness decided to visit me the Saturday night before Christmas. And it has stayed for several days. No celebrating Christmas Eve at Grandma's. No church service because the thought of even getting ready to go tuckered me out. Just not what I had planned for.
I'm guessing there are quite a few people who have found themselves in my shoes especially as they've considered the year in review. Life just hasn't been quite what they expected.
It's a Christmas family photo sent, that seems to be just a giant gaping hole because it doesn't have the the face of someone you love and miss.
It's a Christmas letter half done because it seems way to hard to write about the baby that will not be anywhere other than heaven.
It's a Christmas card not even started because writing about your imperfect kids means telling the truth no one wants to hear, where the truth means suspensions or poor grades or bad attitudes or painfully slow progress.
Gosh it is easy to wallow a bit in self pity, to curl up in a ball and keep your focus inward because the hurt is still raw and cuts awfully deep. It's also pretty easy to be jealous and bitter, to look at the lives of others and their perfect Christmas card stories and wish your life looked just a smidge more like that. The truth is those emotions are the easy ones, ones that come to me as part of my first nature. They seem to pop out of us as we react or seep out of us as we go about our daily business, crowding out the harder ones like patience and joy and hope and contentment. But oh they are easy.
I'm guessing Isreal as a nation may have felt some of those very same feelings on the first Christmas. 400 years of silence from a God who promised them "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." (Deut. 7:9) 400 years of waiting for a Savior, a Messiah, an Immanuel who would be God with them, His precious people. 400 years of painful, awkwardly loud silence.
And yet, a faithful remnant clung to the promises of that faithful God.
Through the silence, Habbakuk spoke and encouraged. "Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.…" (Hab. 3:17-18)
Through the silence, Mary trusts and sings, "“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." (Luke 1:46-47)
Through the silence, the shepherds hear and go. "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." (Luke 2:10)
Through the silence, Simeon and Anna praise and recall. "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, my eyes have seen your salvation." (Luke 2:29-30)
And through the silence, God appears. And He doesn't just appear. He draws near.
He came to the common and the steadfast, to the old, to the barren, to the young and experienced. He came to His people in a crazy mix of the miraculous and mundane. With a choir of angels and a technicolor star that shone not to royalty or the richest of the richest but instead to shepherds and wandering wisemen. He came through the unexplainable as God the Father orchestrated an event that combined His deity with His creation, through a normal human childbirth which is almost always about vulnerability and pain, an event marked not for its easiness or its cleanliness but instead for its grittiness and messiness.
And because He came, I know He's here in my house, even if it smells of Lysol, even if my kids didn't get to go to church and hear the Christmas story on Christmas Eve of all nights, even if I only got to hear the carols I love on the radio and not with real warm bodied people.
He's here in your mess too. In the sorrow and disappointment and the tinges of envy. And best of all, He's here in the good moments too. The ones worth putting in the Christmas card, no matter how trivial they seem to us. He is the good moments, the good news, the good and perfect gift that came from the Father above.