Christmas is different this year.
Most years it’s pleasant, fun, cozy, full of family and yummy food and new stuff. We listen to new music or read a new book, and we’re wrapped up in the novelty of new things and forget about the old.
Normally I see the Christmas story as happy, peaceful, and fairly simple. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, there’s no room at the inn so they get resourceful and find a barn – next best option right? Mary goes into labor, the baby pops out, some shepherds and a random little hobo with a drum show up, they probably burst into song, then they left and told everyone how awesome it was.
I probably would have denied imagining this, but this is pretty much how I pictured Christmas in my mind for a very long time. It was predictable. The same story every year. And whenever you hear the same story over and over, well… it gets old. Sorry baby Jesus, but you just got kinda boring.
This year is different.
Jesus is more than just a baby – he’s a symbol. Immanuel. Mary probably whispered his name that day over and over as she rocked her newborn to sleep, struck by the weight of its meaning.
God is with us.
The most simple yet brilliant plan in all of history.
Jesus’ birth is bittersweet. He’s born, they celebrate, and Mary tucks all the memories into her heart because she knows it won’t last. She knows what he is here to do. That the ultimate plan is to sacrifice himself to give us hope for our future.
And in all the heaviness of my life these last few months I’d forgotten exactly what Christmas is about – hope.
That word holds new meaning for me this Christmas evening. Hope is a choice, my choice, as the best things always are. It is not a choice between pessimism and optimism, but a choice to trust that Immanuel is here. That no matter what darkness and pain I’m staring into, God is always with me. And not only is He always with me, part of Him lives in me. God and I, we’re entwined for life.
This Christmas, I’m embracing the beauty of the celebration, even with the acknowledgement of inevitable heartache. That Christmas night probably felt anything but peaceful and joyful; Mary was probably sore, Joseph was stressed out, and random men with sheep started showing up and wanting to hold Mary’s brand new baby. I’m sure the last thing she wanted to do was let him leave her arms. She would only have him for so long.
But we have Him for all of eternity.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.