“It’s the happppppiest season of all.” Those lyrics played on the radio in my car this week. It’s Christmas. And while I usually sing along loudly to that song about it being the most wonderful time of the year, the words strike me differently this year. This year I am reminded of the amazing undertaking it is to bring a life into the world. Will and I are thrilled to announce that we are expecting a baby in June! “Because of all that the Son is, we have been given one blessing after another.” (John 1:16 CEV) In these past few weeks, I have been reminded of the miracle of life. And while God forms this little one in the secret place, it is no small undertaking. There’s no other way to say it; I am exhausted. There’s a world around me of cheer and fun and bright lights and all I want to do is crawl in bed and sleep and make building this baby my only task. There could not be a more wonderful reason to need rest, and I am beyond grateful. But, it is a hard time of year to feel this way. And through it I think God is opening my eyes to a different way to see Christmas.
Usually I am hyped up and in high gear. If there’s a festivity, the Taylors are there. We don’t like to miss a beat this season. We try to cram it ALL into 25 days, and it’s fun. We come, see and conquer Christmas. So much so that last year when it ended, I felt a bit empty and sad. What just happened and where did it all go? And what now?
This week as I was reading my kids the Christmas story, a part of it struck a deep chord with me. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:7) Or the Jesus Storybook Bible says, “Every room was full. Every bed was taken. ‘Go away!’ the innkeeper told them. ‘There isn’t any place for you.’”
Here the Son of God was coming. The One who created the universe coming as a baby with flesh, and yet there was no guest room available. No room in the inn. I look at my calendar this week. And as I do the things I so enjoy: hanging the lights, buying poinsettias, baking cookies, sealing envelops, buying the tree, going to Santa’s Village…as I attempt these wonderful traditions with limited energy, I am faced with the question…where is the room for Jesus? There is simply not room to do it all this year. And I realize I am trying to create a perfect experience for my family at Christmas, when perfection is the free gift of Christ I am simply meant to receive.
For all of us, there’s a Christmas train that comes through this time of year at high speed. While lovely, shiny and beautiful, it takes us full speed in a direction away from the birth of Christ. Sometimes we have to decide either to jump on or move out of the way. Or it will run over us. But God is not like a fast-moving, roaring train. God extends an invitation in a much different way. He enters the world as a tiny baby. He asks us to draw near. He speaks to us in a still, small voice. Why would the God of thunder speak in a still, small voice? Because He’s that close. So close we can miss Him.
And perhaps because I am tired this year, I can see tiredness in other people too. This fall I’ve become involved with some ministries and had the opportunity to enter into the mess with others. It has been a joy. It has been challenging. My car drives down new roads and my eyes are opened…I see hurting people, I see tired people, I see fearful people, I see lonely people, I see broken people, I see hungry people. I hear of another suicide. I have friends who mourn the loss of their five-year-old as they face the first Christmas without their precious son. I know others who are wondering again this year why they can’t get pregnant. I see marriages falling apart all around me. And while I want to put on my red sweater and sing a song of cheer, there’s something deeper I long for.
It’s grace. It’s renewed hope that He holds the universe together so I can rest. It’s a reminder that he is the light of the world, and that we are the light of the world because he lives in us. And an invitation to enter the dark places with hope. It’s a reminder that we have a King. A King who didn’t wear a sparkly crown, but a crown of thorns. His is not a far-off Kingdom, but one that lives inside of us. It’s awe and wonder at the God of the universe who made Himself small and came as a baby to enter the mess and redeem His broken people. It’s Jesus who came to rescue us, heal us, restore us, and conquer sin and death once and for all. This is not a bedtime story. It’s a real life story and we’ve been invited into it. It’s faith that He is making all things new. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope…” (1 Peter 1:3). That’s what I long for. That’s what he offers in full.
A few weeks ago, I invited people to come hear a testimony of a friend who started Lincoln Village Ministries here in Huntsville. He has an amazing story of redemption and hearing it reminds me of the mercy and power of Christ and what it means to be a light in the Kingdom. It is a reminder that God is a God of miracles and He is performing them in our city. The prayer for the people who came was that they would encounter Jesus. And many did. God brought exactly who He wanted to bring. But I have a friend who did not come. She said she had to get a head start on Christmas shopping. I appreciated her honesty and certainly respect her time and decision. It was not that she couldn’t come that made me sad. It was the reason. I was not upset at her, but for her. Perhaps it was most disappointing because my heart was convicted that I, too, say no to invitations to encounter Christ while I say yes to Christmas. In some moments, there is not room for both. I sometimes forget that everything in this season and every season is all about Jesus. I feel like God looks at me in the same loving and longing way I looked at my friend.
You missed it today.
Will and I love to give during this season to people in need. But, I know the feeling I have in the retail stores as I’m shopping for our family who I love dearly. I see the luster and hope the gifts offer. But, if I’m honest, Christmas shopping sometimes doesn’t feel as much like Spirit-filled giving as checking a to do list. And I scratch my head and wonder why we do this? Don’t get me wrong, the presents are a blessing to have. And they are very exciting…for a little while. Christmas truly is a magical time with little children. We have scrapbooks full of memories with Christmas traditions and family fun that are so incredibly special. I’m not suggesting there’s anything bad about it. But there’s more. There’s so much more the birth of a Savior offers. Because there’s a deeper longing we have, isn’t there?
My son found it the other night in his almost-two-year-old way. As we were putting up the tree and playing music and unloading boxes, he disappeared. That’s never a good thing! I went searching for him and what I saw made my heart melt. He had found his way into the playroom and was snuggled up beside the Fisher Price Nativity Set and was watching in complete awe as baby Jesus lit up. Every time he touched baby Jesus his face lit up with joy as he cooed. Silent night started playing from the little stable as he stared in wonder. Isn’t that what we’re looking for? A little quiet place away from the fray to sit in awe and behold the light of Christ and the beauty of his face? The words to Silent Night touched me deeply.
Silent night. Holy Night. All is calm. All is bright.
What a beautiful thought of a silent night. There are so many lights this time of year and so much color. But that night was dark. And calm. And peaceful. And clear. The star from God shone brilliantly in it. Majestic through the silence.
But it may not have been silent for everyone. What about the people in the inns that were bustling and overflowing? What about the people in palaces dancing and feasting? There was the center of things, the center of commerce…but out in the nearby fields shepherds were waiting quietly. They were the outcasts, the lowly and despised. But we see a sense of expectation and wonder as the angel appears to them. We see them drop what they are doing and hurry to go to see the baby King and behold his majesty. They are given a front row seat to the miracle. They are chosen as God’s messengers. Their hearts are eager for the good news. I am reminded mine is too.
Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
Beautiful words. Simple. Enough. He is coming whether we make room for him or not. He extends an invitation today. And He lovingly whispers, “don’t miss it.”