To all of you sweet mommas with little ones this time of year, or anyone who has ever felt unseen, today’s post is here. Merry Christmas and much love!
We hear a lot about baby Jesus in December, but not much this time of year, so I wanted to share this little heartwarming moment today. We love to read children’s Bibles with our kids, and it is neat see each child identify with the stories. John’s favorite is David and Goliath and every time Goliath dies, John slaps the book as hard as he can and roars. It usually scares his sisters, but he is a precious little warrior. Mary’s favorite stories include the Marys; Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and Jesus’s momma all captivate her because she shares their name.
But Anna, at age (almost) 2, usually just wiggles around and tries to eat the books. She has just started talking more and wanting to read books by herself, so I handed her the Jesus Storybook Bible the other night. There was one (and only one) person she wanted to find:
“Oh baabeee Jeeee-Zus….Where are euuu?
She flipped and flipped and flipped the pages until she found Him lying in a manger, and then her face lit up with joy.
“Der’s baby Jeeee-Zus!” she squealed with joy when she found him.
It blows my mind that the One who made the gigantic sun became as tiny as a baby. The One with all Heavenly power arrived powerless. The One who can hold all creation in His hands needed His mother to hold Him.
The Living Word had to learn how to talk just like Anna. And so she, one of the the least of these, can relate to Him! I find it incredible that we don’t have to change and grow to get close to God, but that He changed and became small to grow close to us. What a beautiful upside-down Kingdom; what an amazing love!
As Anna was pointing to baby Jesus in glee, I asked her if she remembered his momma’s name.
“Mar-wee!” she said with excitement.
“That’s right! And what about his daddy?” I asked.
“Moses!” she said confidently.
I chuckled. Anna may not know Jesus’s earthly father’s name yet, and she may not know His Heavenly Father either. But…He knows little Anna. And He loves her so much that He made Himself small so that she could know Him too. She may be little, but she matters in a big way to that baby Jesus.
And that is worth a joyful squeal!
As a mom at Christmas, I write a script in my mind for how the magical moments of this season should unfold. I have these special memories of Christmas as a child; they were probably messy and chaotic, but when looking at frozen pictures of the past, they appear to be Norman Rockwell esque. So as I prepare meals, shop for gifts and make plans, I envision these magical moments with my family. The script in my mind is perfection.
But…for some reason, it doesn’t usually play out that way. This happened last week. Mary asked for an experience for Christmas this year…an ice skating date with mommy. Then dinner at her favorite pizza place right next to the rink, a cozy restaurant below the art museum that looks at the tinsel trail of trees. You can imagine the visions I had of gliding on the ice together while Christmas music played and then nestling in at that special restaurant in the middle of the park.
And, as we walked up to the rink in our three pairs of socks, two coats, and two pairs of pants in the surprise record low temperatures that hit on the date we chose, we saw the hip hop radio station’s van. Rather than Christmas music, we heard the bop of the nnst, nnst, nnst. As we walked up, they were blasting a song about “dropping your a..” at full blast, and we could hardly hear each other. Perhaps fitting for what was happening on the ice, but not fitting for the precious Christmas experience I envisioned with my five year old. Oh dear. Maybe we should come back another night. But then I remembered the efforts of stuffing our three-socked feet into our boots and zipping up all our zippers. There was no turning back!
At check in, Mary proudly told the woman how this was her Christmas gift. We stuffed our feet into the heavy skates and bravely made our way onto the ice. It was quite hard. As soon as our skates hit that awaited ice, the dj in charge told everyone to clear off for their game of turkey bowling. Clear the ice. We just got on. The woman in charge saw the looks on our faces and quietly told us that we could stay. So, we had the entire ice rink to ourselves which, for safety reasons, was very helpful. While the dj manned the turkey bowling game, the Christmas music resumed. It was fabulous! But not exactly the gliding together I had envisioned because Mary was determined to skate without a helping hand from me. We laughed as she fell about forty times, and thankfully didn’t hit her hard little head. It was wet ice mixed with crashes and cold wind. But she loved it. She would not quit until she did a whole loop by herself. It looked like a painful disaster to me, but Mary was thrilled. And she finally did it!
Then we walked to the pizza restaurant, starving. It was full of people and the hostess greeted us with the news it was closed for a private party. What in the world?! On our night?! This was absolutely not part of the plan. Rather than head home, where my numb feet wanted to go, I drove Mary to a little place down the road that I hoped would still be open. It was empty and they told us we could sit anywhere. Mary chose the bar, the high seats, of course. She ordered sweet potato fries that came with a chocolate dipping sauce – something, Mary told me, is only at fancy restaurants. This was way better than pizza.
As the wait staff gathered around us and rolled silverware, Mary told them all about her ice skating adventure. They were thoroughly entertained by their small visitor. She told them all about her excitement for Christmas and her love for baby Jesus, a topic that was warmly welcomed out of the mouth of Mary. Wine was poured, Christmas was celebrated, more stories were told, and laughs lingered as we all embraced our unexpected, warm moment before braving the cold again. Mary did about eighty percent of the talking and beamed with glee as the center of attention. As the ice melted off my legs, I looked around at our new friends and at her windburned, laughing face with chocolate all over it…somehow the magic I was hoping for found its way to us.
I made this picture into an ornament as a gift to Mary to remember the gift of her experience.
But really, it is a gift to me. It’s a reminder that in our failed quest for perfection, sometimes we find ourselves enveloped by a better storyline…that in the midst of unexpected cold, hard falls, closed doors, and moments we’d never put on the script, perfection makes its way to us. And that is the great joy of Christmas.
Each year at Christmas, new memories are made and old ones are relived. As I opened the box of our tree ornaments, memories from over the years spilled out into the room. Remember that trip? Here’s that one from my childhood! Awe look, the year we got married? And look, our first Christmas with a baby! Years and years of memories all hung in one place. And then I pulled out the little wooden sleigh from her…my aunt Kitty.
Kitty was my mom’s older sister who lived a few doors down. My childhood memories are flooded with Aunt Kitty. Our grandparents lived far away and she was a grandmother and an aunt all wrapped into one. She was so jolly and had a belly laugh that made you feel so good and special when you were with her. She gave out king-sized candy bars to hundreds of neighbors on Halloween; she was recklessly generous. And when I say she did Christmas, I mean she DID Christmas!
That’s why I will never forget twelve years ago on Christmas Eve when we got a call from a neighbor saying there was an ambulance at her house. We hung up the landline and my sister and I sped over. The stockings were hung, the gifts were wrapped, the food was made, she had worked so hard preparing a magical Christmas that only Kitty could prepare for her eleven grandchildren. She went to sleep on the couch after a long day of finishing touches, and she never woke up. As soon as we pulled up to her home, we knew. We just knew.
As I sat in Kitty’s funeral next to my younger sister and saw her fingers shake as she held the program…those fingers that had dialed the numbers to Kitty’s landline at least once a week since she was old enough to talk…I looked around at those Christmas trees in the front of the church and just sobbed. Christmas Eve. She was taken from us on Christmas Eve. It just didn’t seem right.
Twelve years have passed, I have gotten married and now have three precious children to soak in the magic of Christmas. They are absolutely adorable and hilarious this time of year. But even as new memories are made, I can’t get through this season without thinking of Kitty and having at least one good cry.
Because I miss her.
Maybe there is someone you miss this time of year too. It’s the happiest time of the year, and I dearly love it, but Christmas also brings us memories of people who are no longer here to share in the season; the family member who isn’t at the dinner table any more, the address in the Christmas card list you have to delete. Death is real. And it hurts. It’s not how it is supposed to be.
And this year as I got out that wooden sleigh, I feel like God was right there with me. And He reassured me that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to have a good cry. It’s okay to have these emotions and not feel the need to stuff them down. It’s okay not to be okay with death.
Because He isn’t.
At the tomb of His dear friend, Jesus wept. I know He would have wept with us that day in Kitty’s living room. He felt the sting of grief I know so well, and He too cried. And then He did something about it. He commanded his friend Lazarus to come out of that grave. And shortly after that, He did something even more miraculous. He went to the cross.
He came in all humanity and all power to look death straight in the eye and swallow it so we wouldn’t have to. He loves us so much He came to set us free of the shackles of sin and the sting of death. Because we matter.
We miss our loved ones, but we won’t always have to. “He will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.” (Isaiah 25:7-8) That hole in our hearts that yearns for things to be made whole again…He came to fill it, and He’s the only One big enough.
My wish list is long and exciting, but I think what we all desire most deeply this time of year is for the death of the people we love, and the brokenness both inside and around us, to be overcome and gone forever. That’s the cry of my heart and I believe that’s what Christmas promises.
Yes, there is death and darkness. But the birth of Jesus introduces us to the life and light that cuts straight through the heart of it, victorious.
“In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
There is something stronger than death; the love that broke into the universe on Christmas Day. The love that is making all things new.
And sometimes new memories shine light on the old. My children asked today if we could get out our birthday sign for Jesus. I told them not yet, and reminded them they needed to wait until the 25th. John, who is three, started jumping up and down. “Are we going to heaven, mama!? Are we going to get to sing to him in heaven?! Can we go and see him on his birthday, mama, please!? Can we go…”
I listened to his joyful request as his precious words began to cut straight through the heart of such a painful memory…it was the moment I lost it this year. I immediately thought of Kitty and how she went home to be with Jesus on the Eve of His birthday. She was with Him that night. John asked about my emotions, and I reminded him about Kitty. He was thrilled to know that she made it to heaven just in time to sing.
As I rejoiced with John, the words of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, my favorite Christmas hymn and one that comforted me greatly in the years after Kitty’s death, played through my mind,
Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation, Sing all ye citizens of heaven above…Glory to God…Now in flesh appearing…
Those of us who miss loved ones at Christmas, we are invited to sing along triumphantly with all of the citizens of heaven, and perhaps with more volume than before,
Oh, come let us adore Him…Christ the Lord!
Each year, I feel like something new strikes me at Christmas. I’ve read the story of baby Jesus hundreds of times, but it seems each year something pops out that I never saw before. This year, it is baby Jesus.
I was listening to a Christmas song about baby Jesus during a night of worship, and I pictured him crying out to his mother. A helpless little cry from the King of the Universe. I pictured her holding him. I pictured him cooing. Tears streamed down my face as I was overwhelmed by the reality of these images! He was indeed a little baby just like my baby Anna.
Anna is six months old and one of my favorite things about her are these little hands that are attached to the rolls of her arms with no wrist. It is the most precious thing to me!
I smile wondering if baby Jesus had little rolls like this. I wonder what his expression was the first time he sat up. What did it look like when the one who would walk on water took his first wobbly steps? Or sound like when the living Word babbled his first little noises?
The humanity and frailty of him is overwhelming. Such a powerful person and yet his entrance into the world was a baby. Completely helpless, completely powerless, completely dependent on us. Wow.
Like all of us, I have a million things to do this time of year. But when Anna is awake, I can’t get anything done. It’s impossible! And when she falls asleep on my chest, it is just heaven. I know how fast these babies grow. The rest of the world can wait.
There’s just something about babies. If they’re in a room, they become the central focus without even saying a word. They draw us in, they make us feel loved, they disarm us with their vulnerability. We want to hold them, we want to let the world stand still and hold that precious innocence in our arms. They make us forget our fears and our struggles, if only for a moment.
I was holding Anna today and feeling her little breaths go up on and down on my chest as I thought about that baby Jesus. Often when I picture him, I picture me sitting on his lap. I picture him putting the broken pieces of me back together. I picture me safe and resting in his strong and capable arms. I picture him wiping away every tear.
But when Jesus came into the world, He needed someone to hold him, to comfort him, to wipe away his little tears, and make sure he was safe. He needed someone to carry him, to care for him, to stop what they were doing and let him rest on their shoulder.
This year, will you join me in loving on the baby Jesus? In throwing away your to do list for a moment and holding him in your arms. In enjoying that sweetness while we can. Christmas is here and will be gone so soon! The rest can wait. It’s time to enjoy our baby Jesus.
**This wonderful post “Three Ways to Love on Baby Jesus” by my dear friend Suzanne Matthews has inspired me this season. Precious ways we can love on our baby Jesus. I hope it blesses you too!