Today, it is only 9 days until Christmas. Every nook and cranny of this house looks like Christmas — whether it's the hidden pile of gifts, the tinsel that has somehow wandered from the tree to my slippers, or the bucket of Christmas fudge my mother made, just begging to be consumed. It's everywhere. It's in our speakers, on the television, on the radio and twinkling from our neighbors' windows. And we start our days with squeals as the Advent calendar is opened, chocolate tumbles out and a little note reminds us what activity to do and who to pray for. Mother says "Let's make the recipe jars today!" and my little begs, "Christmas cookies today?" and my calendar for the week could all be categorized under some "Christmas" reasoning. Rehearsals, movies, gigs, wrapping, etc.
I see Christmas everywhere...
And yet, in my own heart, in this tiny beating knot of life within me, I find something missing. This morning, I'm looking at the list, the want-tos, the to-dos, the need-tos, and I whimpered a little. My mother, the one who knows me best and has carried my bleeding heart on her hips since I was a wee babe, comes close. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders and I leaned into her warm robe that smelled of her perfume and some Irish Breakfast tea.
"Whatever it is you think you need to pick up today, let it go," she whispers this into my hair. My hair that is still wild with curls and is knotted on the top of my head. The hair that is unruly somedays and feels a lot like my temperament. Unpredictable. Moody. Wild and knotted. "Don't pick that stuff up."
And she doesn't mean this in the "don't take responsibility for your life" sort of way. She means it in the "that's not your burden to bear. That burden is too heavy. That weight is not your life sentence." And as her words cover my heart, I feel it. I feel that sense of my heart putting down luggage, putting down my packages and all of the things I'm convinced make me stronger and better. I'm blowing the dust off my hands — the dust of expectations, worries, fears.
I've often thought about Mary and her constitution. I've wondered at the woman God chose to carry His son. I think about her form and poise in these final days. The nights when she cannot sleep and the anticipation of what's to come seems too heavy to bear, and the delivery is an unavoidable certainty. When she's riding donkey-back and Joseph is leading her and the questions of love and choice, destiny and promise, deliverance and hope are all intermingled with the fear, the worry, the doubt. And God takes her to a stable, and creation around her is coarse, smelly and less than ideal. Here He tells her — lay this burden down. Here your burden becomes a promise. Here your weight becomes a watershed. Here, where you submit your body and soul to a greater plan, it becomes less about you and that's where the beauty happens. That's when the stars shine brighter, the angels sing louder, the earth nearly cracks under the beauty of what has come.
Here, when the tiny beating knot of life within you begins to beat in sync with the knot of life that will save you. Here's where you find true joy. True rest. True peace.
And I think of this as my own mother wraps her arms around me today. The things that cause my mind and heart to race are nothing but a waste of time. But if I lay low, let them go, give into the greater gift of delivering peace, joy, and The Gospel into this world, I find that the things I have dropped become the things that "grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." I think of Mary and stables, and I'm letting go of the coarseness in my heart, the mess of soul, and the stench of my sin, and I'm always caught off guard by the beauty when God says "Yes, here. This is the perfect place. Here is where I bring my promise."
I'm back to sipping my coffee, and Toy Story is playing in the background. Several Christmas gifts sit unfinished on the shelf next to me, and my daughter exclaims "I've lost the baby Jesus in the sun room!" She is worried and I tell her we'll find him. "But he's MISSING," she says and bites her lips. "BABY JESUS IS LOST FOREVER."
I want to tell her that's ok — plenty of us enter into this week before Christmas wondering if Jesus is actually going to make an appearance in our lives at all. But there's time, I tell her. We have time to find him. And come Christmas morning, we'll see his face, new.