Well….another Christmas holiday season is here. And for many and particularly bereaved parents, this is a tough, tough time. Years of traditions and memories flood our minds and make our loss more pronounced. I still haven’t put up any tree or decorations this year in the house. And so stripped away from the tree, the lights, the shopping, the presents and distractions, God has encouraged me to focus on the Christ child. The incarnation. The rescue. It is because of this act of immense love that we have the cross that is in the background and the tomb that will have the stone rolled away. Emmanuel……God with us. So, please, please don’t miss it this season. You see, the enemy REALLY wants you to. He wants you to stress, worry about gifts, parties, money, family, you name it. He doesn’t want you to see the child. But this holiday is when God’s grace and love was born to a young teen mother and father in a manger. A manger of all places! For many of us that have been around barn and livestock animals this would not be anyone’s choice to have a baby especially Almighty God! Think about it……the manger……it’s a smelly place definitely not the cleanest! The real manger is not the sanitized version we see in our nativity sets and school plays. And yet isn’t that what he does in our lives? When he comes into our hearts (our personal manger), and lets face it our lives are not much different from the smelly, germ filled, bug invested, excrement scene of that night….and yet his grace and truth still comes into my life bursting on the scene thrilled beyond my comprehension! God could have been born anywhere you see……but he didn’t plan it that way. There could have been room at the inn if God wanted it to be. He could have arranged for the finest. But he chose not to. Even in his birth he revealed his nature to us being born in a place where no one would have a child…..but yet, that is where God came crashing into our world and chose to come walk among us!
The loss of my daughter and grandsons physical presence and this heaviness of heart has stripped this concept down at it’s core. No lights, no ornaments, no presents. Just Julie’s heart laid bare in a season that is about the joy of children’s faces….my grandsons faces…..reminders that I won’t have those this year. But ever so gently, God urges and whispers to me to peer in and look at the Christ child….a long hard look. And once again, He shows me how much he loves me….even through this…..this smelly, fly covered excrement called grief.
So, amongst the lights, presents and glitter…….take some time out and peer in and gaze upon the child. Don’t miss it because the moment will be gone for another year. The business of life will begin again. Don’t be like others on that first Christmas and miss the birth! You see most did miss it that night. I don’t want to miss it….ever again. I don’t want to miss the birth of the baby who 33 years later would endure the unbelievable to die for you and for me so we could be made right in his sight and live with him forever. That is the gift….and it started in the manger that first Christmas. I am so thankful for this gift. Because of his gift, I live out this life with hope knowing where I will spend eternity and that Elizabeth, Fischer, Benjamin and Hayes are already there worshiping and cheering my family on to finish well!
So, don’t sweat the small stuff this Christmas…..and it truly is small stuff. Love more, hug more, tell your children you love them. Life is short…..sometimes very short. And whatever you do, take time to sit in the manger of your heart along with the smelliness of your life and peer into the face of the babe……God who became man!
I end this posting with a video of the last Christmas Elizabeth and the boys were here before going to their “real” home. Christmas for my adult daughters along with many other adult children is a scheduling nightmare amongst parents and family. This celebration started the morning of Christmas eve at our house for brunch, followed by dinner at Lauren’s, Christmas morning at their house with Fischer and Ben, and finally with their Dad and Lisa the day after Christmas. I have organized the pictures in that order. So, I implore you as you look into my memories of that last Christmas with my complete family….. and I hope through the pictures and music you will see the Christ child…….God incarnate! The music is by Michael W. Smith “All is Well”. And even though my heart is heavy I too look at the Christ child and know that “All is Well” and because of the babe in a manger one day there will be no more tears and I will live in the light of the Lamb forever more. Amen.