Finding the Miracle in the Mess

img_0916It’s Christmas week and we have two little girls. Needless to say the anticipation and chaos are both at full throttle.

There are also life circumstances that threaten to choke off our joy, our delight, our hope in the God who wrapped himself in flesh, in our humanity, and came down into our brokenness to abide in our flawed messiness.

Life circumstances too often swell like storming seas whose waves crash and jeopardize our attempts to remain afloat.

Even so, these words from Psalm 91 are my lifeline: “He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust Him.”

Because God came down.

Because God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Because God cares for us.

Because God is with us.

So, we trust in Him.

We hold fast to His grace as much as His promises.

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We turn toward Bethlehem and remember the miracle of a God who was laid in a manger.

We quiet our hearts and still our thoughts and listen.

We listen to the whisper of that first Christmas that draws us in. Invites us near.

We listen to the cry of a baby who was God and who was welcomed by lowly shepherds.

We listen to the angels who spoke of good news and great joy.

We listen to the heart of God.

And we embrace this place where we are with its mess and its chaos and its clutter and its unknowns.

Because no matter our circumstances, even so, God is with us.

Oh come, oh come Emmanuel, my refuge, my strength, my joy.

An Open Letter to Christmas

Christmasdear Christmas.

I look around my house and cannot see where to put you. It’s almost as if there is no room for you in any of this space. It is overflowing with clutter and disorganization and in much need of cleaning.

Yes, I know that this visit was planned well in advance.

Even so, I’m not quite as prepared as I could be and there is no room for your tree, your gifts, your overflow of ribbons and bows and lights and greens.

Oh, and did I mention that our finances are tight again this year? I know you’ve heard this excuse almost every year. And, yes, we should plan better. But, you know what they say? The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Honestly, it pretty much feels like we live in awry, you know?

All that aside, I hear your whispers in the excited voices of my girls and I sense your presence in the chaos as much as in the stillness.

Have I mentioned that I would pay an exorbitant price for a silent night? That I have a five-year-old who sleeps like a newborn and that I feel more awake than asleep at night? Oh, and that I’ve become fixated on how to “do” Christmas Eve with the threat of these unpredictable night wakings?

And so I read and re-read the story in Luke about Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and angels and the stable because there was no room for Mary and Joseph anywhere else. And, as I read, I see myself there. I feel myself in the crowd and the chaos, seeking rest and a place to stay.

All of the decorations and traditions become almost suffocating because this year, despite my heart’s focus on Bethlehem, this year it doesn’t feel like you, Christmas.

And that’s when I stop and stand in the midst of the mess and the clutter and the chaos of my home, my life, my heart, and I realize, I’m there. I’m with you, Christmas, in Bethlehem. There on that night all those years ago.

There, in Bethlehem, there were no trees or decorations or perfectly wrapped gifts. In fact, the Gift that night was wrapped in swaddling clothes, strips of cloth intended to comfort and not to impress.

There, in Bethlehem, there were no Christmas carols except for a chorus of angels who appeared to lowly shepherds.

There, in Bethlehem, there were no candlelight services, only the worship of those lowly shepherds kneeling before a manger that held a King.

So, Christmas, this may not be Bethlehem, and, no, it’s not the first Christmas in that cold, dark stable with angels and shepherds, but the circumstances feel similar to me at times. And for that, I am grateful. Because it provides me opportunity to welcome you to something incredibly familiar to you: brokenness, messiness, desperation, and need wrapped in hope, anticipation, joy and a strange chaotic peace.

Don’t worry, Christmas. Though we likely will be scrambling about on the Eve of your arrival, we look forward to your coming. We look forward to you filling this space and our lives with the promises of God.