My 2020 Christmas
Now that the holiday season is upon us, I thought I would share where my heart was this time last year. The below is a personal Facebook post I wrote almost a year ago. As I was reading it again for the first time since then, it inspired me to write another post about my thoughts on this holiday season. Stay tuned for that one because much has changed!
Happy November and Happy Reading,
Amid a pandemic, we recently moved to Indonesia, so I knew Christmas would be different this year. However, this week, I came to the harsh realization that we may not receive our items from the US by Christmas time. That means we could spend Christmas day without full stockings and a trimmed tree. There could be no carefully wrapped presents placed under its branches. We probably won’t have twinkling Christmas lights glittering through the windows, and we most likely won’t have garlands swirling around our staircase. Our manger scene could be stuck in its styrofoam packaging instead of telling the extraordinary story of Christ’s birth.
As a lover of Christmas, this sent my heart into a tailspin. My mind had settled on the fact that we were not going to send out Christmas cards, and thank goodness Elf on the Shelf snuck into my suitcase, but what about our other traditions? Talk about being Tangled Up! All I could think of was instead of smiling and pouncing down the stairs in their matching holiday PJs, the girls would wake up on Christmas morning with the same look that Cindy Lou Hoo had after the Grinch stole everything!
With this on my mind, my oldest daughter, Tayler, and I hopped in a taxi and headed towards her school for a tutoring session. My “Buddy the Elf” Christmas heart felt like a lump of coal as we passed every single palm tree. While Tayler was studying at the school, I took the opportunity to catch up on a book I’ve slowly been reading. Chasing Francis is a book written by a megachurch pastor, Ian Morgan Cron, who loses his faith. Mark Batterson, a New York Times best-selling author, speaks highly of this book. His review says, “Reading this book may cause a total overhaul of the way you think about what it means to be a follower of Christ.” So far, I agree with him.
As I finished reading page 86, I noticed one of the verses that Ian writes about was the same verse that was the verse of the day on the Bible App. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I took this as a nudge and studied that verse a little more. The verse is Psalm 8:3-4, and it says, “When I considered your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them.” I left the building, reminded that God immensely cares for me. I went, knowing God saw me.
On our taxi ride back home, I was still in a bah humbug mood, but something happened during that ride that changed me. At a red light, an Indonesian man came up to my window. That isn’t uncommon; people are always trying to sell their goods to the people waiting in vehicles. I didn’t want whatever he had to offer, but then he started singing. That’s right; he began singing in perfect English. I could understand every single word he was singing, and he wouldn’t leave. That is NOT common. The taxi driver tried to give him money to go away, but he didn’t want it, nor did he take it. He stood there, full eye contact with me, singing. I was so overcome by what was happening that I started singing too. Over and over we sang,
How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God!
Tears filled my eyes as the taxi drove through the green light. I felt seen by God leaving the school, but God met me in the cab, and all of my cookie cutter Christmas fantasies faded away. My priorities shifted as flashbacks of significant times God has shown up in my life appeared.
God met me while I lay on the floor as a five year when my mom was having one of her seizures.
God met me as I was reading books to my adopted sisters.
God met me as my grandma was dying.
God met me during the difficult birth of my firstborn.
God met me at my father in laws death bed.
God met me when my youngest almost drowned on a rafting trip.
God met me in the middle of Jordan when I was the most scared I’ve ever been.
God met me on the holy steps of The Scala Sancta in Rome.
God met me curled up in the shower when I was nothing but a puddle of tears.
God met me on walks during a season of spiritual abuse.
God met me in the middle of the night while my husband's military base was attacked.
God met me in this Bluebird taxi in Indonesia.
After those memories came flooding back, emotions overcame me. You see, that moment in the taxi was the most "Christmas" thing that has happened to me yet. My candy-cane framed glasses may have been knocked off this year, but I suddenly saw clearly. Christmas isn’t anything that I miss or long for. It isn’t the red and green sprinkles, snowy parades, and overplayed Mariah Carey songs. As much as I miss it, it isn’t the hustle and bustle and holiday lights. Christmas is God with us, Immanuel. Christmas is God bombarding our world, as a human, to save us from ourselves, and he can meet us right where we are; happy, unprepared, messy, broken, scared, sad, angry, and even grumpy. He cares for us, not by giving us what we want, but by meeting us right where we are and showing us what we need. Let me tell you, dear friends, this is the best gift.
So while we aren’t sending out Christmas cards from a festive filled house this year, consider this our Christmas letter to you. If you happen to have eggnog, take a sip for me, and as you address your last few holiday cards and place your last few gifts under the tree, may you reflect on what Christmas is and collide with God like never before.