Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and it has been since I was a child. Many of my most magical childhood memories are basted in the scent of Christmas pine.
I remember going to the candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve. I remember tip-toeing out of my room on Christmas morning, well before sunrise, to check the living-room for presents. (A privilege of being the youngest was that I always woke up first on Christmas morning. I saw it as my responsibility to announce to everyone that Santa had come. Once I confirmed it with my own eyes, I would run to my parents’ room, then to my sister’s room, then to the room where my brothers slept—waking each of them up. I’m sure they appreciated it!)
What I remember more than anything, more than the presents, more than the magic of Santa, more than the beauty of Christmas Eve worship, is that Christmas was a time when everyone came home. We took up a whole row at church. Our family table was full. On Christmas morning we spent hours together in the living room, opening presents and telling stories.
Christmas mornings were about sharing, and making, memories together.
Christmas is so special to me that when Stephen proposed, I asked if we could get married at Christmastime. I joke now that we chose to get married at Christmas because we knew the church would already be decorated, but the reality is much more sentimental than that. I love Christmas.
When Thanksgiving passes and I start to hear Bing Crosby singing it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go, these are the memories that flood into my heart.
Because these memories generate feelings of happiness and joy, they feel worthy of Christmas. It is easy to give God thanks for memories like these.
But what about feelings that aren’t happiness and joy? What about the years when someone was missing from the family table? Do I give thanks for those? What about the fact that every Christmas since my Dad died, his absence is marked by the tears that roll down my cheeks? What about the reality that Christmas now is a mix of happy feelings, beautiful memories, and a to-do list that makes me crazy?
Are those feelings worthy of Christmas? Can I take those feelings to God?
In a word: Yes.
Think about where the pivotal moment of the Christmas story takes place—a stable (Luke 2:7).
I tend to think feelings like stress, grief, even dissatisfaction, belong in a stable. Those feelings are crappy, like what you find in an animal’s stall.
Good news! God isn’t afraid to be in a stable. The emotional muck and manure I slog through do not make me unworthy of God’s love.
My tendency is to look for God only in the parts of me, in the parts of life, that seem worthy of God. I forget that God waits for me even in those places I’m least likely to look.
Who would have thought to look for God-incarnate in an infant lying in a manger in Bethlehem, on a bed of straw, wrapped in rags?
God shows up in the places we least expect, including our own hidden places, our own “unworthy” emotions.
Instead of compartmentalizing my emotions, shelving some in the “worthy of God” section and others in the “unworthy” section, I need to open them all to God.
In fact, God might be waiting for me in that pile of “unworthy” emotions, just like he waited for us in the manger.
What are you feeling as Christmas approaches? Are there parts of you that feel unworthy of God? Is it possible that’s exactly where God is waiting for you? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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