Have you ever seen those ill advised cupcake sprinkle applicators? I think they made them for children, and I feel like they may or may not have been an As Seen on TV product. I just remember stopping at Michaels by some kind of a plastic contraption that you insert a cupcake into and then in some way generate a windstorm of sprinkles and some of them stick to it, and marveling at the badness of the idea. I really wish I had paid more attention to how the thing worked because at this very moment I think I may be stuck inside one.
There is a lot going on over here, by day and by night. I feel like I generally spend my days committing to baking cinnamon rolls, telling the kids we are decorating sugar cookies tonight, randomly speedily ordering gifts on my phone from Amazon, and trying to get rid of everything in our house. Nothing says Advent and Christmas like purging. Panicky purging. The other day I threw away a pink fleece hat while I was cleaning. A while later I took it off of Shadrach’s head and put it in a different garbage. And then, hours later, when I went to get a pan out to make dinner, there it was- in the cupboard in a mixing bowl. I sometimes wonder why it is so hard to get the house in order and then something like that happens, and I am reminded of the current that I am swimming against.
It seems like every year when it is time to decorate for Christmas I start out with a dream to keep it calm. Maybe all white. Very clean. But when we crack the Christmas bins it is like releasing the hounds. Glitter and camels and snowflakes and advent calendars all come running out of the bins and they take over the house. Deliriously under the influence of it all I will soon find myself tying lights on the curtain rods with big satin ribbon. True story. All my resolve runs away with the enthusiasm of my children.
Last night I ran out to get emergency tights in time for the Christmas program, but when I got home I was locked out. I could see my whole family, and was ringing the doorbell continuously. But they could not hear me over the sound of the blasting Messiah. Our house was literally throbbing with “And the glory, the glory of the Lord, shall be revealed.”
All this craziness is something that I love about Christmas. I’m not complaining about the sprinkle machine that is my life. I’m not complaining about the corner fort of blankets and pillows that keeps getting set up behind and under the Christmas tree. I’m not complaining about all the things that we have to do for the people we love in less time than it takes to do those things. I feel like God is simply challenging us to see things His way. I don’t have any desire to calm down my life, or buy gifts for less people, or feed less people, or decorate less. But man alive, do I ever want to be better at it than I am. Of course practice makes perfect, and another year under my belt can’t hurt.
This year I want to see all these obstacles to celebration as one of the most important parts of the celebration. Jesus came to us here, and we are celebrating that gift here. In this house, with all these normal problems. Feeling the stretching, and the creaking, and the bursting is all part of the glory that is being revealed. It is so easy to think that the whole point of Christmas is to keep calm until that one morning. That moment that we want to be perfect.
I don’t really want to be trying to make Christmas fit into our normal life, because that won’t ever happen. We are already full to the top, bursting with business and obligations and laughter, and messes, and dishes. Our normal life is just the life of people trying to figure things out. Trying to get the bathrooms clean more often than I do, trying to keep everyone in fellowship and out of trouble. Helping little people take apart tiny legos that are impossibly stuck together. Playing catch with the funniest baby. Our life is normally so manageable. By that I mean that normal life is just full of things to manage. But Christmas. There is no controlling this. Pine needles and gift wrap and baking and running all over the town to do the things you forgot yesterday. Christmas doesn’t fit into any kind of reasonable plan, and it shouldn’t
But I do know what we can do about this. We can fit our whole life into Christmas. Giving. Joy. Mercy. Holiness. Jesus is not the reason for the season, but rather the reason for all of life. Christmas is not something that we just do occasionally in our regular life – it is a shelter and a mercy and victory and a hope under which our whole lives are lived. So we aren’t really trying to keep it manageable over here. We want it to tear us up and make us new. Grow our hearts, and challenge our faith. Test our mercy, and surprise us with Grace. We want this to spill out all over our lives into a different way of seeing. We want Christmas to be the lens through which our children see the world. See their lives. See their purpose. Christmas defines us. And it doesn’t let us define it – and what a tremendous mercy that is.