Sunday, December 25, 2011

Just Believe

Every year for awhile now around Christmas, I've grown a little weary.

Weary of people arguing the merits of "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" and of everyone desperate to create "magic." Weary of news stories on Black Friday fights in stores and parents creating elaborate ruses to convince their kids there truly is a Santa Claus.

And yes -- even weary of sermons highlighting "the true meaning of Christmas" and of hearing the same Bible verses on the Christmas story, and knowing they are more completely and perfectly amazing than just cliche and tradition...yet somehow still not grasping, still not appreciating, their true significance.

On Christmas Eve morning I woke early and looked out at the quiet streets and sky just growing light. I kept all the lights off and sat in the glow from the Christmas tree. Ethan got up next. He sat next to me on the couch and announced, "We need to turn the lights on!"

"Let's just sit and watch for a minute," I urged.

After a moment he realized the lights of the tree were reflected in the window. "A mirror!" he exclaimed. "Not exactly," I answered. "A reflection."

We looked back at the sky and it had burst into light. Pink, orange, and blue. "In China, the sun is setting," I whispered.

Day was coming. I thought about the light splitting the darkness. I thought about that night in Bethlehem. The light of the world came not just to illuminate but with beauty and creativity and majesty.

And here we are, called to reflect the beauty. Not perfect enough to be a mirror image. But still here, in His image. Called to reflect not a tiny flicker of a candle, but an explosion of light and love like the sunrise that was splashed across the sky.

That evening, we went to Christmas Eve services with Dan's parents. In front of us a mom sat with the tiniest of babies. He rested his head on her shoulder, fingers curled, lost in sleep. I watched in awe.

God with us. God chose to take on such a fragile form. He chose to live a life in which he would know and live out our the man playing the guitar in the service who stumbled and lost his way in the music. Like the girl who forgot the words to part of her solo. Like Ethan, who had trouble keeping his voice to a whisper. Like the very old man, hands shaking as he tried to find his place in the scripture he was reading. God looked down at all this imperfection and still loved.

Outside in the chilly night, the sky was brilliant with stars. "Look!" I motioned to the kids, pointing up.

"Count them!" Ethan asked.

"I can't," I replied. I thought of the verse I had read that morning, from Isaiah 40:

To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

And as I shivered in the still air I thanked God for helping me see through the sunrise and the stars, through the wrinkled newborn's face, what I sometimes miss in the sermons.

We don't have to make Christmas anything. His story is not a story but the story. I don't have to "feel the Christmas spirit." I don't have to work to make it perfect. My only work is to believe, as the little girl who forgot some of her words sang:

You have everything you need, if you just believe.
If you just believe.
If you just believe.
If you just believe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for sharing this, one of the best messages on Christmas i've read in a long time. God certainly doesn't need us to make Christmas amazing. it is so amazing on its own there are not enough words. but it gets muted and we forget. you opened your eyes and beheld his magnificent light and helped me do so as well. may it be so every day.