So THIS is Christmas.
I am up earlier than the kids which is the every day normal. I’m taking some time to breathe in the quiet and feel the weight of the anticipation of this day. THIS is Christmas. We made it. Christ has come. Emmanuel. Praise be to God.
Last night, at Christmas Eve service, we were given thick white glow sticks. Near the end of service, before we broke those glow sticks, so light would pour out of them, our Pastor prompted us to talk with God about something in our lives we needed broken. Maybe even a way God could break our lives for Him.
Admittedly, I am an anxious person. I have been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. I battled fear while sleeping on the lower bunk of the bunk bed my sister and I shared. I battled it in college and truly struggled with anxiety after the birth of my children. It has been a chain around my feet for many, many years. And last night, as I stood with God in a silent, darkened sanctuary I asked Him, “Break me free” and cracked a glow stick into the night. I have asked before. Many times before, but, this is Christmas.
THIS is Christmas.
Even before I knew God I feared He would let me down. I have always been cripplingly afraid for the safety and well being of the people I loved. I had seen the ugliness and scariness of the world and knew that I was at risk because I had people to lose. Around the age of 8, I started saying this private prayer at night. “God, please keep Mommy and Daddy and Meah safe and well.” Then, because that wasn’t enough protection, I added, “God, please keep Mommy and Daddy and Meah safe and ALIVE, and well.” I also gave God my full name, address and phone number each time. I knew He was there but didn’t know how He knew me or if He knew me at all. But I also somehow knew this: only He was big enough to do what I was asking, so I kept hoping He would.
Years later, in 2008, after officially knowing the Lord for nearly 10 years, I stood in a hospital room where my only sibling, my sister, lay in a bed. I held her hand as she breathed her last breath at the age of 27 and in that single moment, a chasm tore into my soul. Deep and wide.
I had prayed fervently for my sister. I had trusted. I had asked God to keep her safe and alive and well since we were kids. And even now, after all of these years, it is hard for me to admit that I still struggle with the feeling that God let me down in a big, big way. This disappointment has been an anchor for my anxiety. It has told me not to trust in God because He has failed me. It has told my that I cannot believe His promises because He did not answer my prayers. It has ripped a void inside me that only God can mend.
THIS, dear friends, is Christmas.
It is the laying out for all to see the pain and the fear the torn apart things inside of us. Jesus is the good news, but there are so many times this story doesn’t look good at all. Jesus is the good news because He came to be slaughtered for our sins.
He was good news and joy for all the people because He would die a cruel and unspeakable death for all the people so that any person would have the chance to stand before and live with a Holy God. Jesus is only the good news because He endured that punishment for all the bad things. All the ugliness and disappointment and the hate and the chasms ripped deep inside of us.
And He can heal it all. He can mend it all. He can make us whole. In fact, the Word says He already has. It is finished. We are His.
Even after all these years, after great disappointment, I still believe, thanks be to God, that only God is big enough to do what I ask of Him. And I ask of Him a great and many wondrous things.
So I crack my glow stick and hold it against the darkness and declare today, “I believe.” THIS is Christmas. A Light come into the darkness and: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
Take time today, before the presents or after the meal, to crack your glow stick and invite His light into your deepest chasms. Ask Him to venture to the places you don’t put on display: the pains too deep to talk about. THIS is why He came. This is why He is here. THIS, dear friend, is truly Christmas and only He can do what you are asking, what you are hoping for, what you desperately need. It’s okay to be honest about the things that war inside you. It’s okay to be truthful about the ways you feel God has let you down. Then ask God to give you the faith to believe He is still who He says he is.
Go ahead, crack that glow stick and see where His light will go.