Counting down to Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. FAV-O-RITE!
I love the twinkling lights; I love the Christmas festivities; I love the decorating with memories; and I absolutely love the anticipation that Advent brings to both our home and hearts.
Every year, we drag out the box full of Christmas books (because yes, mama has a book-problem), and we ready our Advent preparations. Pulling from our storage, we dust off the wire Advent tree; we place the wooden Jesse Tree ornaments in a bowl; and we secure our treasured Advent book to the middle of the kitchen table.
And the waiting begins.
As we countdown to the arrival of Christmas and talk about our eagerness for the second coming of Christ, I love the intentional focus and the calm slowness that settles over our home. Christmas music plays in the background, cinnamon candles burn, and we deck the halls and walls with berries and burlap.
Every book we read…every winter festivity we attend…every cookie we bake…every gift we wrap, we point our eyes toward the Christ-child. And as we buy and wrap the gifts we both give and receive, we speak of the STAR who donned that wood-beamed TREE–the HOLY BABY that blessed the world with the grace-filled gift of mercy we call “salvation.”
I. love. this. season.
So when our foster son’s open-heart surgery was canceled for November and rescheduled for December 14th, the tears stung.
As I hung up the phone with the Children’s Hospital, the thought reverberated in my head.
But that’s right in the middle of Advent! But that’s right in the middle of Advent!! But that’s right in the middle of Advent!!
And as the thought replayed, my heart became sour.
This wasn’t fair, and I was angry.
This wasn’t easy, and I was frustrated.
This wasn’t planned, and I was sad.
Friends, if I’m gonna keep it real, I let out a fist-shake to heaven and angry-whispered in the deepest parts of my soul, “This sacrifice is too much, God! TOO much! Haven’t we given enough? Why this? Why then? WHY?!?!?”
I wanted to be dancing to Christmas music and clinking mugs of hot chocolate…not sitting in a surgery waiting room!
I wanted to be decorating gingerbread houses in Christmas jammies and wrapping last-minute gifts…not huddled over a baby in an ICU bed with a scar down the middle of his chest!!
I wanted to be slowly and intentionally counting down to Christmas in the confines of my cozy home…not living out of a suitcase and eating from a hospital cafeteria!!!
I realize it doesn’t sound pretty or holy, but it’s entirely true.
I was frustrated, hurt, and all-kinds of mad and disappointed. And for the next two days, I stewed over the unplanned, unfair, difficulty of it all. My kids knew about my sadness; my husband knew about my frustration; and the Lord knew ALL about my anger.
And as I allowed myself more than enough space to grieve and simmer, the Lord was ever-so faithful and ever-so patient with my tantrum.
When I heard the words of His tender whisper, I had my head buried in a closet of old things that were receiving the wrath of my anger.
Ya know Jessica…the whole reason I came was because hearts needed mending.
I stopped dead in my angry purge, and the tears came. And they came, and they came, and they came.
It was true. It was entirely true.
And just as true as His whisper was, it was even more true that my heart was idolizing the countdown more than the Christ.
Somewhere along the way, I had erected an idol in a corner of my heart that was labeled “Best ways to celebrate Advent” and without consciously being aware, my heart was becoming side-tracked by the stuff of celebrating rather than the Savior of the season.
I let His words simmer, and the Spirit spoke His Truth.
I came for your sadness; I came for your anger; and I came for your hurt. I came because of the disappointments; I came because of the difficult; and I came because things aren’t as I planned. I didn’t come because your life was “together” and your celebrations “perfect;” I came because they aren’t and would never be, apart from me. Jessica, I came for ALL kinds of busted plans and broken hearts (yours included), and I came because you needed rescue from YOU.
It was true, Truth.
And just when I thought He was done, He whispered one more thing.
I don’t need your celebrations, Jessica; I need your worship. And sometimes worship looks like sacrificially serving–letting go of your desires and laying aside your plans. So maybe this year you’ll celebrate
Christmas ME by loving a baby who is swaddled in ICU clothes and lying in a hospital bed.
I was un-done. And truth be told, I still am.
So as we enter this Advent season, I find myself approaching the month of December with a tender heart and humbled knees–ready and willing to celebrate the Savior by offering hands of service and giving feet of sacrifice. Because isn’t that we He did that very, first Christmas for us?
Though He was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slaveand was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died [to self] a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8
I have no clue what December holds, but I do know this: He came to mend hearts, and I’m so very glad He did.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1