The following is a revised version of an article I wrote in 2004. May it bless you as you celebrate this holiday season.
Merry Christmas, Sparky Nation.
I took the kids to Walmart so they could do their Christmas shopping tonight. What was I thinking?
Tomorrow is crunch day. It’s the last day to get stuff done before we leave on vacation to spend the holidays with our families, and the last day to get stuff done before my husband gets home and is cranky that it isn’t done. Needless to say, I’m making lists like mad.
As usual, I’m finding that it’s frustrating to be responsible for so much STUFF during this season. I miss being a kid at Christmas. A kid’s responsibility at Christmas is to anticipate. I anticipated what Santa might bring me, I anticipated what kind of fudge my grandpa would make, I anticipated the family party at my aunts’ house, I anticipated where my favorite bulbs would be on the tree, I anticipated the Christmas carols, the live Nativity we did at church, the special Christmas dress, the sights, sounds, and smells. I anticipated with great strength and purpose.
After all, that is what kids do at Christmas.
But I’m not a kid anymore. All the stuff the grownups did so that I could anticipate unfettered is now my responsibility. It’s my turn. And it’s only fair.
But still…I want to anticipate.
I want to be so wrapped up in the idea that the Word became flesh and walked among us that I can hardly sit still. I want to explore the world around me, looking for the delights of deep meaning that hide in plain sight all around us. I want to welcome the Child as if it’s the first time I ever met Him. I want to be Mary, not Martha.
I am completely taken with the thought that one night in Bethlehem a tiny, perfect baby was born in a stable amidst the donkeys of other travelers. He was admired by sheepy-smelling societal outcasts. Nobody of importance came to see Him. No royalty, no religious leaders. Just shepherds. Simple-minded, uneducated, rough, hard-working, possibly-not-even-sober, hygiene-challenged shepherds.
I wonder what they did when they saw Him? I wonder what they said?
What would I do? I can’t imagine holding the God of the universe in my arms. I can’t imagine what it would be like to run my fingers over the fine silk hair of the newborn Most High God, feeling the delicate hollow of His soft spot. What would it sound like when He cried? Nothing like the anguish He would know 33 years later, I’m sure. And yet, both were the cries of an innocent colliding with our fallen world. Emmanuel.
That helpless baby held the power to free me from the chains of death. His blood would not only keep Him alive while He walked on this earth, it would one day be spilled to rescue me. I would walk away from a death sentence scot-free, and He would be buried in a borrowed tomb. How fair is that?
It isn’t. Grace is never fair.
But on that starry night in Bethlehem, only God knew what future that infant would face. The angels were busy rejoicing and frightening the sheep-keepers silly. Good news to the shepherds! Good news to the sheep! Most of the world slept on, unconcerned by the miracle that had taken place in an innkeeper’s backyard shed, unaware that a tiny baby had been sent to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to unlock the cells of the prisoners and turn on the lights for those held captive in darkness.
I would sing for you, wee One. I don’t sing like an angel, but I don’t think I could hold You and be silent. I’d dance with You. I couldn’t just dance for You…I know that the moment I wrapped my arms around You that I would no longer be able to remain still. I’d sing You a lullaby and twirl You around—gently, of course—but if You spit up on me it would be ok. I’d put my finger against Your tiny palm and marvel at Your infant strength as You squeezed it tight. I would be ignorant of the horror that would await You on the day a Roman soldier would put his finger against Your palm to mark the place where he would drive a nail. I would love without thought of grief. And I wouldn’t think to imagine that one day I would love even more because of grief. No, with Your newborn smell under my nose and Your tightly drawn body molded against my own, I would never believe it. This is the day for rending cloth for swaddling, not temple curtains.
This is the day for a lullaby.
I want to anticipate. My heart is not at home in the rush of this world.