Let me be honest: looking forward to Christmas this year has been a huge struggle for me. Not slight, not moderate, but a huge struggle. My husband would tell you that I woke up the morning after Thanksgiving and cried because of Christmas. True story.
It’s just been a tough pill to swallow: our first married Christmas, my first Christmas away from my family, and we will be in Brooklyn … alone, with Logan working on Christmas Day (can we all please boycott sporting events on holidays?? Thank you.). Even thinking about how to plan for Christmas has just depressed me. How can I plan Christmas Eve when Christmas Eve has always meant church and appetizers and presents with my family?? How can I plan a Christmas morning that consists of me and a cat?? As I told Logan tearfully, as he sweetly, patiently looked up fun Christmas activities for us to do… I just have no framework for this!
In all reality… I’ve been having a big fat Italian pity party. A gigantic pity party. Yes, I know that we’ve been blessed beyond imagination. Yes, I know that there are tons of people out there with way WAYYYY worse scenarios. But for some reason, I’ve been really unable to get past these entitled, sad feelings.
A huge thing I’m leaving out is those all-important first six letters of Christmas and totally neglecting to consider the meaning of this holiday. It might as well be called Emilymas for the way I’ve been moping around like a martyr.
Today I finally decided to drag myself off the couch and actually pray about this and read the Bible. The praying just turned into crying and entitlement, so I stopped praying and turned to the Bible and started reading the stories of Christ’s birth. I mean, that’s a good way to prepare for Christmas, right??
I read the account in Matthew… and Mark…and finally turned to Luke. Luke has a much more detailed account of the events leading up to Jesus’ birth, including Mary finding out she was going to have a baby. As I read her story and her joyful response to this news, it hit me that this really was not ideal for Mary. Not ideal at all. She’s engaged to be married and she gets pregnant!? Does God really want her to go through that embarrassment!?
Then as the story goes onto Jesus’ birth, he has to be born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough. Now that is really not ideal. Can you imagine a pregnant woman today giving birth in a pig pen and then setting her baby in a feeding trough?? And being joyful about it??
This is the thought that then hit me: God used less-than-ideal circumstances for His perfect plan. He used a less-than-ideal situation and chain of events to bring his story of redemption into the world.
If that is the case, where do these holiday pressures come from?? Why are the holidays filled with so many expectations?? Why do I think that I need to have the perfect Christmas, go to exactly 3.5 Christmas parties with my husband on my arm, have the very perfect Christmas morning huddled around the tree sipping cocoa and wearing festive pajamas? Not only is God bigger than the less-than-ideal circumstances, but he does his best work within them. What a humbling thought.
Friends have encouraged me to find some good distractions this Christmas to focus on something outside of myself… crafting, baking, volunteering. I think all of those things are great, but before I can do any of those things, I need to come to accept things for how they are and find joy instead of putting a band-aid on.
I am so grateful to know a God that works in less-than-ideal circumstances.
I’m so grateful that God sent his son to cover my sin and my entitlement, selfishness, and whiney days like today.
I’m so grateful that God doesn’t require my life to be picture perfect to work in and through me.
My prayer this Christmas is that God would grow me closer to Him through these less-than-ideal circumstances and grow in me a faith like Mary’s.
Luke 1:45 “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”
Luke 2:49 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”