Wednesday, December 18, 2013
On not forgetting the deep darkness
Everyone talks about 'missing' Christmas. We spend a lot of words and energy trying not to miss the meaning, trying to absorb and teach and remember the reason we celebrate this season.
Lately I'm understanding why. Christmas is joyfully fluffy. It is a big dollop of whipped cream on top of the dessert-month of the calendar. We work hard to get to December, when we want to bask in the fluff.
I love it too. The carols, the smells, the lights, the traditions, the gatherings and gifts and glorious foods. Christmas is usually a time of enjoying our blessings. And I'm not about to say any of those things are bad, so stop worrying.
What happens to me, though, around now, as the actual day approaches, is that I get quieter on the inside. When I'm tempted to feel overwhelmed and kick it into overdrive to clean up my to-do lists, I start thinking about the real first Christmas and how messy it was and how I'm not finished with anything.
Look at this verse about Christmas.
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father." Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.
I'm stuck on the first part: but when the right time came. What made it the right time? I feel like Christmas can't arrive until all the items on my list are checked off. All the decorations are just so. All the groceries are in the fridge. All the people in my house are happy and have tidy outfits on and understand the depth of what we are celebrating. When all of us are standing, holding our breath, in a clean house in clean outfits with clean hearts, that is the right time, and then Christmas can come and we can exhale.
But what made Jesus' birth the 'right time?' I think about the moments He's shown up in the biggest ways in my own life. And goodness, if it's not at the very last minute every time. I'm in a cliffhanger of a problem, everything is messy, and that's when He shows up, when I'm pleading and crying and my fingers are slipping off the end of a rope I can't hold onto any longer. Usually, that's His definition of the right time.
And so I'd guess things were so at His birth. Jesus is first and foremost a savior, not just a prophet to tell cool stories, or a friendly guy coming to give hugs, so I'd bet, at the time of His birth, mankind was as deep in darkness as it ever was. I'd bet the world was pleading and crying and desperate. The right time meant things were the most messy, the most people were starved for light. Look at this prophecy in Isaiah.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
Deep darkness. Suddenly the desperation I see in Christmas makes the fluff blur in the background. I am reminded the snuggly, "silent night" was really a rescue mission with more controversy, conflict, and more at stake than any event in history. Christmas isn't whipped cream as much as it is lifeblood. It's knee-dropping grace. It's God with helpless us. It's a world about to let go of a rope.
It's the King of Kings coming to ransom His children by sending one, like an innocent lamb to the slaughter. It's adoption and forgiveness and everything you've ever needed.
Today, I can make my candy cane cookies and still recognize that there is deep darkness all around me. It threatens my health, my children, my marriage, my faith. We live in a broken, messy world. I never want to forget reality, being blinded by twinkle lights, because that's why we have Christmas at all. Of course even my own heart harbors darkness; we all do, and we want to bury and ignore it at Christmas. But every day of the year, I need the light of Jesus, I need to know He saw my darkness and came down and lived and gave up his life. For me.
We'll still read about the Grinch. Tomorrow we're making gingerbread men. And the weekend is chock full of activities. But I'll also tell my kids the real story. Not just the fluffy nativity version with bleating goats and a glowing baby.
I'll tell them the desperate part. Because we all need that part, even children. Until heaven, we all need freedom and adoption as God's own children. We all at times feel like we may just slip off the end of the rope and need Jesus to catch us at just the right time.
In 2014, I'm sure I'll have some of those desperate moments, when I need serious rescuing. I'm sure you will too. And no matter what time of year our 'right time' arrives, remembering the epic rescue called Christmas will make us stronger.