Did you ever anticipate something, move heaven and earth to do what you could to give wings to that something, and discover on the day it arrives you foolishly stand with arms outstretched to embrace it when what you should be doing is ducking for cover as Ms. Anticipated Event nosedives right at you?
Ya, I’m sure I’m the only one who’s ever been there, ducked that.
I’m sure I’m the only one feeling this more acutely during the holidays.
You know how it is: work stress, activity stress, doing stress builds and spills all over your pretty Christmas plans.
And maybe all over the people in your house.
Difficult relationships turn the common ground of celebrations into battle grounds of confrontation.
And the battles wound and your heart bleeds.
And Merry Christmas turns to Weary Christmas as it kicks your “merry and bright,” cheery goodwill right off the front porch. When this happens to me, I feel like Maria from The Sound of Music as she gets her first full view of the massive von Trapp mansion and whispers,
It’s all rather overwhelming.
To be sure, the Christmas season alights the world in magic and makes the good times see twice as good. But even a sanguine like me can’t look away from the fact that during the Christmas season, the hard times seem twice as hard.
I am a messy, sensitive girl who moves like a scale with one hand holding all the sweet, good moments and the other holding all the trying, hard ones. I move my hands toward one another, desperate to feel the weight of the good tip the scales. I want to see and know that in spite of what my circumstances tell, abundance of good is heavy around me.
As it turns out, the Christmas season is the perfect season to find exactly that.
Here’s the thing that tips the scales in favor of Christmas abundance: With the birth of Jesus, God reached down to us like never before because he wanted us to experience his presence like never before. Emmanuel, God with us, comes in the middle of our hot messy selves and whispers to us, I am here to help.
I am here to grow new things from the broken things, the seemingly dead things.
He reaches down and I have to ask myself: Am I going to reach up? Am I going to believe that indeed, when Christ is invited to the middle of my mess, what appears today is not the end of my story…just a part of the middle?
Like the new shoot from Jesse’s stump, what is becomes the fertile ground for what can be.
Broken conversations, broken relationships, broken hearts–nothing is too far gone, too hope-gone. God makes all things possible because he loves you in impossible-to-fathom ways.
I know, I know: it’s crazy to place your hope in what you don’t see. It’s hard to reject the belief that what is difficult today will be difficult forever.
But this is the time we remember how God reached down to give Hope to the hopeless.
This is the time we remember God still reaches down to give Hope to our hopeless situations.
This is the time we remember to wait expectantly. And as we wait, we reach up for the arms of the One who holds us close.
We reach up and know that in spite of how unwell things seem, how un-merry and un-bright we feel, just maybe all really is well.
I am in love with this recording of “All is Well” by Carrie Underwood and Michael W. Smith. Goosebumps galore! (Subscribers: click here to watch it).
This post was inspired by Ann Voskamp’s stunning new family Advent book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Arranged in readings for everyday from December 1st through the 25th, it is something the entire family can use to celebrate Advent together. Our family’s schedule is such we can’t read it every single night, so some days we double up on the readings. But no matter. The exquisite words and artwork inside it feed our souls with beautiful truth just the same. Even my big kids enjoy the readings, and I especially appreciate the thoughtful questions located at the end of each day’s reading. They are perfect conversation starters for kids young and old. You can also find tree ornaments coordinated to go with the daily readings here.
lori dunham says
I echo Kristen’s praise for Ann Voskamp’s advent book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. It is beautifully illustrated and a great way to focus on Jesus as the meaning of christmas. I love how it tells the story of Jesus from Adam and Eve through to his resurrection!!!
Totally agree Lori ~ the way Ann’s book tells of His-story throughout time is just perfect. Thank you for mentioning that here!
Kristen, you painted words in this post my mind hasn’t been able to form. Thank you for it being soul food for me right now.
What a kind, gracious comment, Elisa. Thank *you*.
Beth Williams says
I love the song also.
My Christmas so far this year hasn’t been merry and bright. That all changed a few days ago. God somehow knew I needed some reassurance of His love, my worth and beauty. He sent me Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift and Jesse Tree ornaments. In a flash I was putting those beautiful ornaments on the tree and my super hubby came and hugged me and told me how beautiful I am. This is something I needed to hear as I’ve had a hard year dealing with work and my aging dad.
Thanks Kristen for a great post! Have a blessed Christmas!