It's that time of year already. The lights are hung and so are the stockings. All of the women decided and implemented the theme for their trees this year even though the overall theme was thought to have been decided two thousand years ago. The men still have plenty of time to get their shopping done. All they need is twenty minutes the day before and things magically seem to fall into place.
The crunching snow, goodies baked and carols being sung somehow spark in me a feeling that I don't really like. It's not regret I feel. It's a feeling of loss, like I'm missing out on something magical, a striking sense of ... absence.
It's always been easy for me to get into the Christmas spirit. Being raised in a Christian home really shapes Christmas for a little girl. Not only was Christmas a time of magic and secrets and buying and creating the perfect gifts for the ones we love, it was THE time we stopped to celebrate Jesus' birthday. The day that the world was sent a savior. The day that we waited for all year long and as soon as the last Turkey had been swallowed on Thanksgiving the tinsel began to go up.
Something is different this year though. I know Jesus needs to be celebrated but things are harder now than they used to be. Never have I experienced a year with so much frustration and confusion. There's not been a year where I've had my toes to the fire on choosing to do the right thing. My character has been on the line more than once and there've been decisions I've had to make that I've doubted and still do.
I guess I could chalk this up to being a season in my life, or I could chalk it up to getting to know the world as it really is. Things aren't as black and white and people aren't as kind as I'd always hoped and naively thought. Things aren't fair and who’s to judge fair anyway, that's like saying one thing is normal and another is not.
As I sat at a Christmas performance this evening, the feeling reappeared. It was as if no matter how much emotion and sincerity I try to put into my appreciation for the Christ child, the more frustrated I made myself. However, it was at the same Christmas performance that I realized it. Finally it became a little bit clearer.
When I was little it was easy to be in total and complete awe of the virgin Mary (virgin being her first name, Mary the middle- at least that's what I figured that strange word meant) conceiving a baby by way of the Holy Spirit. As I’ve gotten older though, a helpless baby doesn’t seem as powerful as what I need for this crazy life. And THAT’s the blessing I get to celebrate this Christmas. That sweet little baby was not a baby at all. He was a savior, He IS a savior and not only that - He is THE savior for all of us. He’s no longer on earth in a baby’s body. He’s a God who is big and powerful. He’s the leader of an army doing all that He can to protect me and help me through spiritual battles. He’s there for me to lean on. He’s the big God who has every power on heaven and earth. No He doesn’t use His powers like the gods we imagine or the ones portrayed on the silver screen. He’s the God who wants us to grow in Him. And knowing that, in the midst of a performance celebrating Jesus’ birth, I sent a thank you prayer up. For if it weren’t for the loss, the fighting against bitter feelings, the temptations and the hardships this year has introduced, I wouldn’t have a reason to run to Him. I wouldn’t fully understand my need for a Savior. I wouldn’t understand the need for a lord of my life, someone who leads me every minute of every day.
No, this year isn’t all garlands of cranberries. It’s not magic and twinkling lights. It’s a baby in a manger who lived every struggle that man could face and He did it without sinning. He’s the Son part of the Father and the Holy Spirit. He’s my rock, my celebration and my salvation.
In the coming year, I’m nervous about the struggles that I’ll face. But I know that each one that comes my way is going to weave my faith-life a little tighter, more closely connecting me to He who was once in my mind ‘just’ a sacred baby in a manger but the being who is now the Lord of my life, my only Hope.