Have you noticed this crazy thing that happens to us moms around Christmas time? We fall into one of two camps. Camp #1: We obsess and stress and exhaust ourselves in the name of holiday cheer. We are basically an entire village of Target Black Friday Ladies. Camp #2: We throw our hands up in frustration at the commercialization of one of the holiest days of all time. We Grinch our way through the shopping, decorating and hosting. We’re spent even before the Black Friday shoppers line up outside Best Buy on Thanksgiving morning.
If you’re anything like me, you teeter back and forth between these two camps, depending on the day.
But what if this Christmas, we chose a different way?
A few weeks ago, amidst the holiday chaos and my imperfect parenting; amidst the world around us on the brink of implosion, I opened up my bible to the Christmas story. “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18- 21)
Being in the throes of early motherhood, which often leaves me wallowing in uncertainty and worry and self-doubt, something new stood out to me when I read this story I once viewed as only harmonious and perfect. Joseph almost divorced Mary? This does not sound like an ideal situation. It actually sounds really stressful.
But what if this Christmas, we chose a different way?
So I did a little Googling. Here’s what I found out about what it was like for Mary to be pregnant out of wedlock two thousand years ago, in a very conservative Jewish/Roman culture. Unlike today, Jewish and Roman law both demanded that a man divorce his wife if she were guilty of adultery, which was what Joseph planned to do until an angel appeared to him and told him to marry her instead. So this is not like Kim and Kanye in Hollywood, where anything goes.
Luke describes Jesus’s actual birth, which many of us are familiar with. But let’s stop here for a second as we really think about the circumstances he’s describing. “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:4-7)
Ok. So let’s get this straight: Mary conceived this baby out of wedlock, her fiancé almost divorced her, and now she’s giving birth in a barn, laying her baby in a feeding trough for animals. Find a room full of mamas anywhere and there will be some differing opinions about birth plans. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a birthing plan like this one. Barn. Feeding trough. Hay. How much time and energy do 21st century mamas spend sanitizing pacifiers and bottles? We use special laundry detergent for onesies and blankets, as to not irritate newborn skin. Meanwhile Mary had to put her newborn on top of a goat’s dirty dishes, because the Holiday Inn was booked. I thought the prospect of birthing in a triage room sounded rough. THIS does not sound ideal.
But here’s something kind of mind-blowing: It was ideal. The actual first Christmas probably did not include spiced cider and definitely no Bing Crosby on Pandora. But you know what? It was perfect, because it was exactly the circumstances God intended for His Son to enter the world. This was planned from the very beginning. It was prophesied, it was foretold. Everything about the Old Testament points to Jesus’s coming. God made man and gave us His laws to obey. And we didn’t. Our inability to keep these laws created a need for a sacrifice to atone for those sins. But prophets foretold of a future messiah, a rescuer. There’s hope, yet. He is coming.
This was planned from the very beginning. It was prophesied, it was foretold.
The God of the universe loved US so much, that He sent His perfect, sinless Son. He knew Jesus would be beaten, mocked and crucified on that cross, to pay the penalty for our sins. To rescue us. There has never been news as earth-shattering as this: That we may spend an eternity in heaven in God’s presence by believing in His son, accepting His forgiveness and following Him?
So here we are in the Christmas season. The time of year where mothers have always felt the tension of this season more than anyone else. Santa or no Santa? Do we fall apart under the busyness of another cookie exchange, another class holiday party; the stress of coordinating outfits for family pictures, the buying and designing and mailing of cards? Do we just throw our hands up in frustration at the commercialization of one of the holiest days of all time?
OR, what if instead, we viewed the seeming chaos of the season as a staging area? What if we viewed everything from the Santa picture line at the mall and the conversations with our neighbors about Christmas dinner as opportunities to point others to Jesus?
We know that God is sovereign. He was sovereign when He created the universe, He was sovereign when Mary conceived a baby out of wedlock and birthed him in a barn. He was sovereign when His son was beaten and dying. He was sovereign when Jesus rose. If we believe in the God of the Bible, the One who is sovereign over all things, the seeming chaos and sufferings in our daily lives is purposeful. Do we believe that nothing can happen outside of His will? Let’s live like it. Let’s remember this month especially, as we feel the weightiness of making the holiday perfect for our kids – let’s remember that the first Christmas was in a barn. The God of the universe slept in a feeding trough. And it was the most epically perfect Christmas of all time. Because we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen.
What if we viewed everything from the Santa picture line at the mall and the conversations with our neighbors about Christmas dinner as opportunities to point others to Jesus?
So let’s fix our eyes on what is unseen this year. Let’s use this Christmas as an opportunity to share the best news the world has ever known, to look for opportunities to love our neighbors. To teach our kids to do the same. To walk in the works He has prepared for us in advance. Because it is the whole purpose of our existence, it is truly the only thing that satisfies.
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Image Credit: Bart Cayusa, Creative Commons