It doesn’t feel much like Christmas this year. I have decorated the house, wrapped presents and placed them under the tree, and moved the Elf 22 times. We made cookies and biscotti. My six year old, for whom the next three days will pass much too slowly, danced her heart out in her Nutcracker debut. We have sugarplums swirling in our heads all night long. My one-and-a-half year old is delighted by the decorations and lights, exclaiming “Wow! Mismas” at every turn. We have done all we could to prepare, but something is missing.
I feel like I’m hanging out in the Inn, maybe partying with the crowd late into the evening, while over yonder in the stable, something breathless is about to occur. And I’m going to miss it.
I have prepared everything for Christmas. Everything except myself. Today, I sent my family scurrying to church without me because I haven’t been feeling well. An hour later, as I walked into the mall for last minute gift-buying, I felt sick to my stomach. The feeling had nothing to do with my headcold.
I fell for it. Materialism and commercialism have robbed us of the sacredness of this holiday. And I am swept up in it.
Three months ago, I boarded a plane for Honduras. I came face to face with poverty and filth, desperation and heartbreak. At times, my memory replays the images like a documentary. Other times, the heat, the work, the love are so close I can taste them. But right now, while I am reveling at the Inn, carrying on about my selfish needs and desires, and thinking only of my family, the Love I encountered in Honduras is as far away as that stable in Bethlehem.
It doesn’t feel like Christmas because Christmas isn’t here where it’s warm and toasty, where the drinks flow freely, where our physical desires are met. Christmas is out there, in the dark. In a tiny manger lit only by a star, a light from heaven. That’s where Love is.
If I hope to encounter His Love this Christmas, I need to step out of the Inn of comfort and ease. Where do I want the Child to meet me? In my decorated home with our pretty tree overflowing with presents for one another? Or at the side of the manger, on my knees, thanking Him for each precious gift He has given – my family, my home, my broken heart? These are the best gifts. The ones I can receive with open arms, gifts from God Himself. And what does He want in return? Only my love. His Love for my love.
Maybe that’s the part of Christmas I neglected this year. Love for love. Not presents, candycanes, trees and ornaments, icicle lights, wrapping paper, the Elf, or even Christmas carols. Just His Love for my love.
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John 1:14 (the Message)
Merry Christmas to each of you. May you step outside of your Inn, walk toward the manger, and let His Love enter in.