(we shall resume with the last post of our Three Part Series after the Holidays)
I was reminiscing the other day about the Christmas that my husband and I spent in the ER – literally. I had what was thought to be appendicitis and we left for the Emergency Room at about 9pm. We were there until 6am. By the time we got home the sun was coming up and we went to bed. ( I didn’t have appendicitis, it turned out not to be anything but a growing baby and stretching belly.) Then there was the Christmas when my sister was sick and we ended up staying unexpectedly in another state for Christmas to make sure she was OK and going to make a full recovery (she did). The there was the time when I was pregnant and the smell of cookie dough, candles, evergreen, and cinnamon made me incredibly sick. Then there was the year that the kids were very small and we couldn’t afford a tree……
What do all these Christmases have in common? None of them turned out the way I had hoped. None of them felt filled with lights and cookies and peace…..and yet, He came. He was born. The Day of His Birth still arrived. Without the trappings, without the fanfare, without the glaring lights on my front bushes, and Bing Crosby belting it out on my stereo (or iPod)…He still came. I remember leaving the ER on that Christmas morning and looking up at the sky. The sun had not yet risen and the stars were just starting to fade. There was one very bright one and I gazed at it for some time thinking to myself how I was in the ER, consumed with my own worry, my own fear, that I almost missed the fact that He was born. It was Christmas Day! My house didn’t have a tree, it didn’t have presents, but I had a Savior. He came whether or not I was “ready” and He came for me, to take away my fear, my anxiety. He still came.
This year I have blinking lights in the windows and a nice Tree in the Living Room. There is a Christmas Village of Department 56-type houses set up in a snowy wonderland on my cupboard. Snowmen dominate my kitchen and the Manger has been set up and displayed prominently by the tree. The Jesse Tree’s branches are laden with homemade ornaments recounting salvation history, the Candles of the Advent Wreath are getting low and the Advent Calendar’s doors are wide open. There are 6 dozen cookies in my freezer and a plate of very specially decorated ones to be left for Santa on Christmas Eve. Perhaps this would be my Courier and Ives Christmas! That thought lasted about as long as it took for our only vehicle to come to a deliberate and noisy death on the Interstate – the weekend before Christmas. The Courier and Ives dream popped and fizzled into a momentary shower of imaginary sugar plums and then was no more as the tow truck hauled our van onto its flat-bed. Oh well. It was then I recalled all the other “not so perfect” Christmases that we’ve had. And it was then that I fully realized that it doesn’t matter. Will I have the perfect Christmas this year? Maybe not…and yet, He comes.
We all have idealized visions of Christmas – mine involves an overdose of Bing Crosby, hot cocoa, a massive, heavenly smelling evergreen tree twinkling with tons of lights, candles all over the house, lots of perfectly decorated cookies, and about a foot of snow. Will I ever actually experience this epic Christmas? Most likely not. And that’s OK because I am beginning to think that it’s in the imperfect Christmases that we can find Him all the more. He came for an imperfect world, in an imperfect stable. A Perfect Child.
God didn’t wait for His People to build a palace for the Newborn King before He sent Him to earth. Everyone in the world was oblivious to His Coming except His Blessed Mother, Good St. Joseph, the shepherds and wise men! Everyone else was busy going about their lives, trying to get by. What a lesson this is for us! What Hope for those of us who find ourselves year after year striving towards that elusive “perfect Christmas.” Those who recognized His coming were simple Shepherds, who had the time to gaze at a quiet night sky and beheld the Heavenly Host instead! They were men “from the East” who knew of prophesies and weren’t even of the “Chosen Ones of Israel.” These Wise men had so much Faith that something truly glorious was about to occur that they followed a Star to the One Who came to Save them. He came to Mother Mary and St. Joseph, holy parents who trusted God with all their hearts. He came to the simple, to the humble, to the faith-filled – to those who were willing to look for Him. That is all we need be to have a perfect Christmas. The Christ Child is not concerned with how many lights or decorations or cookies we have ready. He is concerned with our hearts. Are they ready for Him? Have we taken the time to become simple, humble, trusting, and Faith-filled? That is all He asks. Are we seeking Him? Then we will find Him and He will dwell within us.
Of course the trappings of the season are nice and they are fun, and they are filled with wonder – especially if you have small children afoot. But unless they act as our own “stars” – pointing us to Christ’s Birth, then they are little more than distractions, taking us away from the internal preparations that we need to make for His Birth. It’s easy to get frustrated, there are Christmas Cards to send, and presents to buy and wrap; and for parents who have children waiting for Santa, these tasks can be great sacrifices of Love, and sacrifices prepare our Hearts for His Coming. Even though we may want it to feel like “‘Tis the Season to be Jolly” do not fret if you don’t have the house looking the way you had hoped, or of you don’t have cookies baked this year, or if your tree is fake, or less than perfect, or even if you have to spend Christmas Eve in the ER… you could have an open heart, truly prepared for Him, and not one other thing ready in time for Christmas Eve….and yet, He Comes.
May you have a truly Blessed and Holy Christmas!