Looking for Christ in the Crumbs

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever eat a leisurely meal again, unpunctuated by interruptions. Breakfast is often consumed while standing, monitoring cereal consumption, watching for tidal waves of milk to come hurling over the cereal bowl rims. Lunchtime is a breathless race to place edible food on the table before the residents revolt in mutiny and march themselves through a Taco Bell drive thru on foot. (please note: they never eat at Taco Bell, because I normally manage to suppress most mutinies.) In between these times are moments where they like to act out Oliver Twist and the Little Match Girl, begging for more food or extra snacks, precluding the making of my own food at times.

  
Then, there is the crowning glory of the culinary day, dinner. The time in which I prepare food while one child transforms into a koala and pretends by leg is a tree and the other thinks she is Alton Brown and tells me she knows what she is doing and that she should be able to use sharp knives. The food finally gets placed on the table, hot and edible. Everyone eventually meanders to the table, we cut up food into bite size pieces, drinks are placed, and it is go time. The youngest child takes one bite before she scrunches her face and begins to send food to the floor in a pattern somewhat like rain dripping down the drainpipe. The oldest insists that she is going to gag on the food. Water spills, the other sippy cup is being used as a fountain, following the food from the virtual drain pipe to the river on the floor. I clean up the puddles.  I take my first bite. The food is now cold. We attempt conversation. There are more interruptions. More drink requests. More conversation. Laughter. Despair. More bites of cold food. Finally everyone else has finished. I scrape my plate and stir the leftover bits around. I start to clean up the floor, scrape plates into the trash, and run warm water over messy plates, before we begin the mad rush into the bedtime wonderland.

  
Meals do not often occur as I envision them. They are not the beautifully, plated and gourmet events I imagine. Not much about life is.

But there are some meals, moments of meals, when I feel like I’m looking through a magazine at a beautiful meal, that isn’t really showcasing the food. Not a real meal, but still a kind of event that makes one full. These moments happen when I least expect them. Like a breeze through a window, like a candle that flicks light across a room, it happens quickly and is gone. It takes a laugh, a giggle, a smile from one side of the table to the other, even while rice is strewn over the floor and broccoli shoved to the side of plates. I see happiness. I see plenty. I see provision. I see beauty.

  
I see time, time that seems long and interminable when I’m picking rice and broccoli off the floor, again. I see time that goes too quickly, like a firefly in the summer night’s air, flashing in and quickly darting away when I hear a delighted giggle. On long days it is hard to remember that time goes fast. On the quick days, it is hard to remember that the brilliantly exploding moments, ones that fade too soon life fireworks, are a necessary part of life’s path. 

It is hard to remember, in the interminable moments and the full moments, that one day we will feast with Christ. Feasting with Him is a vague idea that is often hard to imagine in the middle of our mundane. We repeat our meals and go through the motions of cleaning up, preparing, eating, and cleaning up again. In our lives, in the middle of our messes, the repetitive motions often seem just that, repetitive. In the beginning of a challenge, we bring excitement with us. At the end, we either bring disillusionment or grand achievement. But the middle is when we need grace and commitment.

  
Often those short, perfect, magazine-like moments are gifts from God, They are gifts that show us small graces now and the large graces to come. Sometimes those moments we share, laughing together, in between spilled water and refilled plates and reaching for extra napkins and cutting up food are the ones that give us glimpse into the joy of togetherness that the New Heaven and New Earth will provide. I see tiny children who depend on me for survival. I see a God who makes all things consist and cares lovingly for each of His children. I see a piece of perfection that could be, if the mess were held at bay. I see messes that will be gone, and curses that will be undone, and an existence that will be redeemed along with my soul and body.

  
The short conversations that I have with tiny people are grace. The laughter we share, the bread we break together, even the bread that crumbles all over the floor, are the grace that tells us know we are made for another world, a greater feast.

 CS Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him and with Him everything else thrown in.” That is true at meal times. That is true at every time.

  
And so, during the interrupted meals, I remember a better feast is coming. A feast where I hope my children join me.The hope of this feast cancels out the frustration of my non-feast like events. This will be the ultimate meal, full of grace and beauty. I do hope then, that I can put my fork in my mouth before someone needs a refill.

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Abraham and Five Year Plans

Five years ago I sat on a couch staring at my husband across the room. I still own the couch, but it now bears battle wounds of small children, the latest of which is blue marker on its’ arm. That night, the couch was clean and smooth. And our world had just jumped out of its orbit.

There was going to be a baby. Five years ago this weekend we suddenly knew the initial emotions of being parents. We knew the timing was horrible. We had no idea the turmoil that year would hold.

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I was 29. We had just celebrated his 30th birthday. We had walked off the plane from a fantastic vacation in Florida that week. We headed home to our still new-to-us church where we were thriving and to life as we knew it. I was in my last semester of grad school, hoping to be finished with a dead end job I hated by the end of the year. The puzzle pieces seemed to coming together for me. Until that night when it seemed like someone grabbed all the pieces and threw them up into the air to land at random.

For three months I walked around numbly, not knowing why God thought I needed a child, convinced I was being punished for some latent evil or stupidity. Then our pastor resigned. I got mad at God. I usually try to avoid being mad at God because generally it doesn’t do any good and seems like a waste in the end, but I was mad. For two weeks I walked around mad. And then our landlord told us he had sold our house and we had a month to move. Suddenly I had no energy left to be terrified or mad. I knew I had to give up the illusion of control I thought I owned.

I pitied myself. I let every possible emotion eat away at me. I knew ultimately that circumstances were so far out of my control that God had to be in control and that I was in the safest place to be- in His sovereignty, under the shadow of the Almighty. At times though, I would be afraid to take a breath, not knowing what might come next.

For two months a new normal tapped its rhythm. When everything seemed to be settling, I developed preeclampsia. And had a baby eight weeks early. And spent five weeks in a NICU with her.

Five years and two beautiful healthy little girls later, I live in the house that our pastor owned and sold to us. The last five years have been jammed full of joy and dotted with sorrow. There have been births and laughter. There have been deaths and tears. There have been changes and struggles and adjustments.

I read the story of Abraham to my girls. I read about God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I’m tempted to skip the story. I don’t want to explain to my 4 year old why God would ask a daddy to kill his own son. I don’t want to endure the empathetic thoughts about giving up my children. But I read the story and I answer the inevitable questions as best as I can. But the story has new revelations for me. The picture of sacrifice and rescue that God showed Abraham and Isaac on that mountain is clearer than it has ever been.

As I read and answer, my heart aches, wondering how Abraham could have given up his son, his only son for God. As a parent I writhe at the thought. And then as a child of God, as a recipient of grace, I realize that writhing I feel is how God felt when He sent His only begotten son, Jesus. And paradoxically, He gave up His son to gain me, to gain many sons and daughters.

I cover my little girls with blankets before I go to bed for the night. I look at their perfect sleeping faces and I wonder how I could be so undeservedly blessed. Each night I get to tuck them in is a gift. I wonder how I ever thought I didn’t need their lives in mine.

The only way I could scrape the surface at truly understanding the implications of my own redemption was to become a parent myself. God is brilliant, to give us families, in order for us to understand Him as our Father. He knew that I needed to know and believe that He loved me. He knew I had to feel that ache inside to be startled by the gift He gave.

A few weeks ago I took my youngest daughter for an ultrasound. I knew going into the procedure that there was nothing seriously wrong. The doctors had basically told us what the issue was. But there was a part of laying her on that table that felt a little too much like placing her on an altar. What if something deeper was wrong? What do parents feel who know there is something seriously wrong?

I went back to Abraham in my mind. He was called to give up what he loved. He complied. And he still believed that God would provide the sacrifice, whether that provision was Isaac or (ultimately) the ram that ended up in the thicket. And the irony of the whole story is that Abraham was rescued from having to sacrifice his son by God, whose plan was to sacrifice HIS son to rescue the world. In giving up Isaac, both Abraham and Isaac saw the glorious picture of redemption to come. When we give up, we look back at the glorious picture of redemption. There is no sacrifice that we endure that God has not made already. Most often this story of Abraham is taught as a neatly packaged heroic “God comes in as an 11th hour genie and spares Abraham from tragedy” kind of tale. But when God doesn’t prevent sorrow or hardship, what do we have left from this story? We have to know that Abraham “trusted God more than what His eyes could see” (S. Lloyd-Jones) and that regardless of our outcomes, God has still provided His own son as a sacrifice for us. All that we are asked to give up, freedom, youth, time, loved ones, convenience and ease, security, whatever it is, is already under God’s sovereignty. His sacrifice has already provided our escape. Our resurrection is guaranteed and sealed, by an altar shaped like a cross, by an open tomb.

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We need to come up short and be startled by the grace of God. It is too easy to say the words “grace, sacrifice, death and resurrection, and to not understand what pain our salvation cost God.

Five years ago I had no idea how much God loved me. It may sound silly to say, but I had no idea how He could use what I viewed as a series of mistakes and misfortunes as an altar where, like Abraham, I had to offer up what I most treasured in order to understand the sacrifice of Christ.

When we give up what we most want, we can clearly see the glory and love of our Father.


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What I Hate About Motherhood

There is a part of motherhood that I love and a part that I still struggle to accept. And sometimes those parts make a Venn diagram in my head. (Yes, I just used a term from a math book, call the news hotline) I try to make sense of these blended areas of existence, mainly  to stay sane and positive.

I love my children as human beings, naturally. They are cute (usually) and funny (mostly) and they add color and happiness to my life, like herbs I didn’t know were missing from soup. I also love the part of motherhood that has made me run to God and hold on tightly to everything I know about His goodness and love from the first instant of motherhood that blinked on a screen as a line to my now normal everyday life full of amazement that I actually have children, frustrations, decisions, questions and answers, and my own fears for their future.

I hate the collective mommyness of motherhood. I dread the automatic categorization of “moms” who are obviously only interested in things like diapers and the color of spit up and preschool crafts and transforming our housework into kingdom work by swallowing a spoonful of sugar and singing bippity boppity boo. There is a homogony to mothers that is both comforting and repulsive.

Humans love commonality and community and yet we value our personal uniqueness. In being a part of the masses, I am learning to admire God’s skill in making a pattern of image bearers so like one another, all in need of a Savior, and completely different from even their closest human friends.

The other frustrating part of motherhood for me, (or of domesticness in general,) is repetitive nature of trying to maintain dominion over a constantly falling apart domain. Now, I do not mean to say that things like dishes and cleaning and laundry are not meaningful. Of course they have a purpose and without them our world would hygienically struggle a bit. Here is an example of what I mean. I cleaned for six hours one day last week. I scrubbed floors and organized toys and dusted in between making meals and snacks and changing diapers and answering questions and playing evil queens and pirates, and taking a toddler off my Swiffer mop and dismantling her from the top of the piano and so on. It was slow progress and hard to see results. But during naptime, I felt satisfied, despite my lack of a shower that day.

Then naptime ended. Within two hours, there was a scene of destruction in my house that would rival a natural disaster. And everything I had done was undone. The floor was still clean, but it wasn’t noticeable. Wait, floor, what floor? The floor was a carpet of books. The carefully removed dust was floating back again. And new meals had to be made, messing up the shining granite countertops. Crumbs went jumping onto the freshly scrubbed floor. Bedtime meant that I could relive my day all over again, doing the same activities, still without a shower, because clearly I had enjoyed the day so much.

I repeat my work over and over and over.  A little at a time, slowly working toward an elusive goal that is never really met. I fix and disintegration appears. I create and natural causes (humans) destroy or consume. And I find it frustrating not to see progress and results.

But, there are a few ways to look at this.

Isn’t God’s work repetitive? I know it only took Him seven days to create the world, but His work did not end there. Is He not constantly making a fallen world, continually falling apart, stay together? By Him and through Him, we consist. And are we who believe not being saved, daily? Redemption happened once, but is constantly upheld by continual mercy. Forgiveness does not end, but repeats over and over, for all time.

Everyone is labeled in categories and everyone encounters repetition. You need not be a mother to feel the tension. A pastor, a laborer, a teacher, a business executive understands the same ideas.

My work is done. My work is demolished. My world is neatly tied up in brown paper packages. My world is unraveled with a snip of string. And at the same time, I am undone and I am made whole. I am one of many image bearers and I am a unique image bearer. I participate in the groan of creation and yet I will be made new and see the reward of redemption.

Repetition can seem endlessly futile. Or it can be the foundation on which all meaning and originality is built. We find our individuality in God, our Creator, our Heart’s true desire, rather than in our repetitive work. We reflect the constant nature of God through our repetition. In this dance of perfect and imperfect, of blessed yet needy, we pave paths toward the shining light of creativity, reflecting God, unchanging and eternal in the dawn of each fresh day.

Deep In Monkey Bread

Have you ever tried to make monkey bread with actual monkeys? OK, well neither have I, but I did with the closest thing to little monkeys you can find – a four year old and a 21 month old. A lazy Sunday morning, snowed in again, this time by a second blizzard, seemed like the perfect setting to make monkey bread with two short helpers. There was nowhere to be, no time limits, no rushing. Just us in the kitchen, white lights plugged in, scented candle lit, the silent white snow drifting from the sky to the ground.

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It was not quite the calm, Pinterestly, smiling fun I had in mind. I was tired, a little bit over the snow mounting up to the kitchen windows, and generally not feeling patient. The culinary scenario often goes like this these days: I begin the kitchen process. Oldest child drags her small chair to the counter. Youngest child drops everything she is preoccupied by and leaps like a flea for her chair, pulling with all her strength, frantically yelling “HEP!HEP!HEP!” (Meaning she wants to help, help, help, as well. NOT,  that she needs help.) We situate ourselves, usually with them in the exact place I need to stand in order to achieve any progress and me, waltzing around them, stretching arms between them, or giving the oldest directions for things she can handle.   And quite typically one or both of them falls off their chairs during the session. I often find myself grabbing the youngest off of her chair, holding her, and attempting to cook one handed.

There is no efficiency to this cooking style, no therapeutic relaxation. I am lucky to read thru a recipe, understand it, and get an edible result from it. Hopefully, the girls will at least learn how to cook someday and will not sustain long term trauma from falling off chairs, associating cooking with hitting their heads on the floor.

There are days when I can reasonably handle this arrangement with my tiny chefs. There are days when I banish them from under my feet so I can just make a meal unstressed. There are nights when I cook after they’ve gone to dreamland and I remember there can be a therapeutic quality to the whir of the Kitchen Aid, the stir of a spoon in a pot, the aroma of finished.

Monkey bread blizzard day was not a day I could handle well. Like I said, over tired, over snow, I really just wanted to put the bread in the oven and sit on a couch with a cup of coffee and hypnotize myself with the spiraling snowflakes. The recipe was a tiny bit involved, with many steps and re-reading of the recipe.

IMG_0378There were approximately 2,067 questions from the four year old. There was near tumbling off the chairs. There were don’t touch instructions. There were repeated don’t touch instructions. And a few more. And saving from more near tumbling. And explaining and showing how to make the tiny dough chunks. And how NOT to make the dough chunks. And requests to not eat the dough. And fishing dough out of the baby’s mouth. And more directives not to eat the dough. And answering more questions. And explaining that I was not upset, but that listening to instructions is important. And please don’t reach for the knives. And please don’t play with the dough. And please keep rolling the dough if you want to help. And please stop eating the dough. And getting more dough out of the little mouth. No, do not bite my finger. Please stand on the chair right, you will fall off. Why will you fall off? Because you are not standing up correctly. No, it is not ready yet, it has to rise, then we bake it. Why does it rise? Because it has yeast in it and that makes it puffy and light. What does rise mean? To get higher in the pan. No, we are not baking it right away, I just said that. Please roll the dough in the sugar. Please don’t dump sugar over it. No, not all the sugar in one spot. No, roll the dough in the sugar. Ok, take turns. It is her turn. Because you just had a turn. Don’t eat the sugar. Ok, ALL DONE! Good job, go play.

Are you stressed?  I’m exhausted just remembering it. But, the beautiful thing is that I still love my kids. Of course I do. It would be unnatural if I didn’t just because they asked questions and did not listen. And I will cook with them again. And I’ll get frustrated again and wonder why I cook with them.

And as I was standing there, rolling my eyes at the refrigerator instead of in the direction of the girls, I thought about how much I question God. About how much I want to do things my way. About how often I don’t trust that the plan is good enough. How I think that I need to tweak the plan somehow. That perhaps if I rolled the dough and dumped more sugar over it, it would taste better, because more sugar is always the best, right? Because I cannot trust that less is sometimes more. Because I cannot believe that the plan does not include me being utterly happy right now, this very moment, and throwing forever to the wind. Because, obviously, if I do not have everything that my surrounding culture tells me I need, even the best-intentioned culture, then God’s way of doing things is not good enough and I am missing out. Because living in the wilderness or the desert is clearly God sending me on a dead end path, not the path to milk and honey, glory and delight.

My little four year old is learning about her world. My little 21 month old is copying and trying her best to keep up. Both of them are incredibly determined that they can exist without help, that they have life figured out, right here, right now. And while, I am often impressed by their life savvy, I clearly know they do not have everything figured out. I know that they need to learn that all the sugar does not need to be dumped onto one section of the dough.

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I am not so foolish to think that my children understand their neediness at this age. They are naturally learning and will learn by hearing things over and over and by falling off chairs and getting up again. And I am grateful that God is patient with me. I am comforted knowing that no matter how often I believe the lie that my way or the more shiny way is better than God’s, He will still look at me and see Christ’s blood. He will still wrap me in His arms and call me His child. He will see the work of the Cross and remind me with gentle love that He knows better than I, because He has given me everything I need for life and godliness in Christ. He, the Author of my faith, the Finisher of my faith, the ultimate creator who created an unfathomable redemption plan will not rob me of happiness. I need to remember that my Father invites me to participate in this life of faith, to increase in knowledge, because He loves me more than I can fathom. And my tiny chefs, who try to roll dough while doing ballet while standing on a chair are my constant reminders that a perfect Father plans a perfect path in perfect love.

The Father Younger than We

It started in the Autumn. There was a birthday in our house. A four year old’s birthday. We left babyhood behind forever, heading officially into the realm of little girl hood. She converses with me in sentences and paragraphs, flits through an imaginary world complete with “pretend friends” who interact with her, states her opinions quite decidedly, and makes observations about the world that make us laugh, make us shake our heads, and make us fully aware that she is a rapidly maturing human being.

Then I began a new hobby of pulling out gray hairs fighting their way from the depths of my hair to the surface, shouting for the world to see. Less than vanity, it bothered me because it was a sign that life was passing by, that youth is farther past me than ever before. While age is just a relative number, it is after all, a non-negotiable figure.

My birthday came at the end of the year. It is always the non-landmark birthdays that bother me. They launch me closer to the milestones and the silent, encroaching progression is worse for me than the actual reality of age. I began to feel restless, unsettled, anxious, worrying about worrying. Worrying about what the rest of life holds.

Without realizing it, worry becomes a part of our life, even when we do not recognize it as worry. It begins by hearing someone’s bad news and feeling sympathy. Sympathy turns to empathy, where we envision similar circumstances upon ourselves. We hear too many news reports in a day and our processing attempts lead to worry. In my world, the distracted nature of my current life leaves me little time to process my thoughts from beginning to end. Instead of trusting a good God, I build a collection of random facts, speculations, headlines, observations, probable health hazards, and simplified answers to childish questions about complex realities. I teach my daughter Isaiah 41:10 to help her diffuse worry about monsters in closets. I repeat it to myself to deflect fears that clamor to be heard.

I was scrolling around the other day, landing on Sally Lloyd-Jones’ blog. She had highlighted a favorite GK Chesterton quote of mine from Orthodoxy.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
    G K Chesterton

God is our eternal Father, who never ends. He does not begin or end. He is both older and younger than we are. He is timeless. The Creator of beauty, the author of redemption, sustainer of life, and the essence of love does not plot the harm of His Children has an eternal presence, allows us a childlike confidence in Him. He is constant, the Father of light with no shadow of turning, and yet as Chesterton says, He makes each daisy separately, the designer of creative repetition.

Stop worrying, I remind myself. Age is not a reason to worry, because our Father is in fact, younger than us, unhampered by sin’s decaying process. While day in and day out propels me closer to older age, my God is timeless, unbounded by age or the sin wearied monotony of our world. He carries the loving joy of a child and the loving mastery over every piece of life on earth.

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Babies and Somewhat Sacred Writings

There were no organic cotton blankets in the rustic venue. There were animals hovering nearby, probably devoid of their rabies shots. There were no aromatherapy candles to give calming ambience, and instead the scent was probably nauseating to a woman with a brand new baby. The carefully written birth plan was non-existent. It was dark and cold.

The arrival of Baby Jesus is a common enough story, even to people who don’t consider Christianity to be for them. But why is it that Christ’s advent is as a baby? Have you ever heard a story so often you slightly lose the significance? Why a baby? Until a few Christmases ago, the record of this birth as central to the Scriptures merely seemed to me like a logical way to get onto the planet – by birth, like the rest of us. He could have dropped as a man out of the sky and onto a beach or desert. There could have been no record of His early life and we could have met Him at the baptismal waters with John the Baptist. But, recently, I began to see more significance to the infant incarnation.

There is plenty to read about Christ’s identification with man and vice versa. There are the points about temptation, suffering, and fully understanding humanity, minus the sin nature of course, that need Christ to have lived the entire span of a human life. But, the words of II Timothy 3:15 came to mind as I read to my daughter one day. “…From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul is affirming with Timothy his legacy of faith, encouraging his continuance in believing and spreading the Gospel. From childhood, infancy really, Timothy has known the truth of Christ, of his family’s faith, as it became his own faith.

It can feel awkward and forced to use theological language with a baby. I wanted to teach my children the importance of Christ’s birth, without the awkwardness that comes from making a toddler say “incarnation” (however amusing that might be). My conundrum of toddler development and theological communication was solved by a few storybooks, along with a fresh awaking to the powerful wisdom of God.

Both of my children love books. As their developmental stages occur, they become fascinated with babies. Real babies, baby pictures, baby faces, anything to do with another little person have fascinated them. Board books with the Christmas story, Song of the Stars, and The Jesus Storybook Bible (by Sally Lloyd-Jones) are a few of the Christmas books we read. One day, my mental light switch turned on. We read the story, looking at the sheep, pointing at the angel, touching the star. When we turned the last page and saw a stable scene, with a manger, and a baby inside that manger, my daughter’s excitement became infectious. “Baby, baby, baby!” she squealed while she pointed and smiled and traced the face with her finger.

Now a children’s book is rarely considered a sacred writing, even when retelling the sacred truths of the Bible. And my daughter was more excited about the picture of a baby than about the implications of Christ’s incarnation. But, the brilliance of God’s plan to send a Savior in the form of a little baby brought a cascade of amazement to my mind. This Savior, Christ the Lord, made Himself human flesh so that we could identify with Him, completely – from the earliest beginnings of our comprehension. He came as a newborn human, giving even a baby the chance to know Him, to know His grace, before he or she can even say His name. He identified with the creation He came to save, with the smallest of us. God’s masterful plan to seek, save, and draw many sons to glory unfolds in unfathomable wonder as a child begins to learn about a Savior through a connection with baby, similar to herself. “…From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings…” is completely possible thanks to the masterful plan God.

I realized, once again, that God’s redemption is both clearly simple and incredibly astounding. His plan is so simple that from childhood, the gospel can be understood. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, confess with your mouth that you are a sinner, and believe in your heart that the resurrection is true. Children begin early to learn WHO Jesus was – once a baby just like them – and is – the risen Lord of the universe who seeks and saves. His plan is so meticulously perfect that no human could have drawn such a beautiful plan to redeem mankind. No human could have considered all the implications of Christ’s incarnation, like coming as a baby to identify with His treasured creation from the beginning. The tiny details included in the redemption plan make one marvel at the brilliance and compassion of a Creator and God.

The scholarly works written on the birth of Christ are numerous. Sacred writings are carefully preserved. The birth of Christ commenced the fulfillment of the greatest tale of love ever. It brings nations and tribes and people together to celebrate. The message of the gospel spans centuries, intelligence levels, and generational divides. Promised from the beginning chapters of the Bible, Jesus came to Earth, as our Rescuer, our promised Deliverer, to break sin’s curse, offering humanity the only freedom from death’s prison. Christmas celebrates the Gospel – the good news that Christ came to win His treasured children back from death’s grip. The account of this birth becomes the delight of babies squealing over books that show the rustic, lowly advent of our Savior, thanks to the wisdom and masterful design of the Creator and Redeemer of all. We can celebrate the advent, the birth, the coming of Christ, reveling in the knowledge that the Creator and Redeemer would come and identify with His creation of the lowest age and place.IMG_5430.JPG

Why Christmas Lights Matter

She kept saying that she was making things beautiful. This is the first year she has actually been able to really help. Only one ornament broke. She was so excited to be a part of what we were doing.  So now, the tree is up. And lit. December is here.  And we forge ahead, into the end of the year, as new moments and memories, still unrealized, wait to join our rituals. DSC_0273

Lights, warmth, company, food, laughter, presents, memories, hope and good wishes. These are the images that march through our minds when we think about Christmas – in our non-cynical moments.  These are the feelings we crave and hope for each year. And these are also why holiday seasons are hard when our memories are not all happy, when health has broken down, when loss is a gaping hole in our hearts, when our expectations are violated, leaving us sad and empty.

It’s fairly easy to remember Christmastime as a pleasant part of childhood. But as we age and life breaks on us like waves on the sand, it can be harder to conjure the feelings of hope and joy that are scrawled across cards and commercials. Conflicted feelings of happiness and anxiety, hope and fear fight and battle for the seat of honor at our table.

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But why, despite loss, life, and harsh reality’s glaring presence, are we still drawn to the Christmas season?

Because in the darkest season on Earth, light came. Because in our sickness,  a physician who heals wholly, completely, came. Because on the coldest night, there is warmth for the heart. In the middle of isolation, there is acceptance. In our loneliness, we are made the friends of the eternal God.

Because in our losses, a Father suffers with us, because He too, once gave and lost  – so that we could be His children. Because with our isolation, Christ remembers that a baby born in a manger was left alone, to die under our sin, so that we would be free from the darkness, the cold, the emptiness, the violated expectations in our lives.

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The expectation of future joy and peace replace the holes left by the need of grace and redemption.  And, while some see the activity of the Christmas season as superfluous, we must see it as the mirror of a beautiful redemption.

We make beauty around us because our Creator is beauty and His creation cannot resist following His lead.  In our deepest, farthest, almost unknown places of our souls, we crave everything that Christmas brings. We crave purpose and meaning and belonging. Those are gifts found only through Christ.

We watch the brilliant Christmas lights as they shine into the dark wintery nights.  We crave light.  We crave beautiful light that will open our hearts and make us know what we want and who we are meant to be.  We long for our Creator and Father, our Redeemer.

DSC_0284As the trees go up and the decorations multiply and the music cheerfully lilts, find the beauty of Christ in the shimmering and the sparkling.  Watch the lights shine across miles of shops and homes and landscapes and take comfort that no matter what memories of Christmas surround you and no matter what dread encloses you, there is peace from the Prince, promised and complete, propelling us through the cold darkness, to a warm Spring, to resurrection power and glory.