I was an idealist I suppose. Our twin boys were two, and continuously left us somewhere between awe…. (as in awe look how cute they are) and aaawwwwe (as in Aaawwwwee no, now what did they do?). You know, normal kid things… Times two, at two.
We scurried to get our house ready for Christmas Eve service. My mom had found the boys these adorable little vests and ties. To say they looked cute, well Adorable is a much better word. The big kids were ready and we hurried out the door to make it to church in time to find a place for us to sit together. You know those times… Ugh, get in the car, do you have the bag for the boys, did the big kids brush their teeth, I’ll be right out just have to set the time for dinner, now where is my lipstick? Blah blah blah. By the time we arrived, frazzled had set in and deodorant had worn off. We found our cozy spot in the back of church.
Deep breath, all was well. We nestled into the dimly lit service so full of the season of Christmas. Tears leak out of the corner of my eye as I reflect on the baby Jesus and held my precious boys after years of infertility. Kendra and Matt, my step kids with us, all seemed perfect.
Perfect, that is, right up until the singing of silent night and the lighting of candles. It’s a tradition in our church to end our Christmas Eve service as a community holding our candles up with one arm on the last refrain, to go light our world. Normally I blink fast to keep the tears for falling as I look across the sanctuary at the gold glow on the faces of so many dear friends. A child on my hip, head tilted into the curve of my neck and a soft glow on my families face as we stand close.
I know right… Beautiful. Lest you think that I live the perfect life, let me tell you how it was this year. We had just begun singing and passing the flame from one candle to the other down the aisle. Caleb drew close to me and I was excited to light his candle and embrace him. Just as I scooped him up it began happening… Out of his sweet little mouth came a volcano of vomit. Right.in.the.middle.of.silent.night. Oh.My.word, what do I do now?
I rushed him into the kitchen just to our side and got him to a sink. You can imagine the trail on the floor that followed me. As I sat there holding him I realized that his cute little Christmas vest was not so cute anymore. Nor was my dress. To say we were both covered, well… That might be a bit of an understatement.
In that moment, when you vision of Christmas eve crumbles and your standing there trying to figure out how many Christmas memories you just ruined with the scent of, well you know, in a stream from you chair, and how exactly to go about cleaning up this mess, you realize something. This is what it is about as a parent and perhaps as a Jesus lover.
Because none of that mattered. What mattered was my sweet little Caleb who was clinging to his mama, both of us full of it and not caring. As I stroke his sweet head and looked into his little pixie face, I melted over and over again. We stripped him down, wrapped him in his blankie and took him home to shower and clean up. I’m stuck with the irony of it being Christmas Eve and Jesus being born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. Just as his birth was not picture perfect or graceful or elegant, neither is our life.
We can dress up and do fancy services with pretty candles. And we should. But we need to also be careful to not get too caught up in the idea of Christmas that we lose sight of the meaning of Christmas.
As I drove home, I didn’t ponder whether we could still open presents or how long it would be before this erupted out of Carter, Caleb’s twin. I didn’t think about the fancy dinner we had prepared and wonder if we would even eat it. My only thought, is my baby ok? And I imagined Mary, in a stable, holding her baby. Not concerned about the bleeding of sheep in her ear, or the scent surrounding her that was certainly not pine cones and candles, she simply rejoiced that her baby was ok.
I didn’t take us long to figure out that Caleb’s sickness wasn’t contagious. It was curdled milk. He’d gotten into a sippy cup of bad milk just before church. We were able to finish our evening as planned, but the present of the baby Jesus took on so much new meaning that Christmas.
Just a few swallows of curdled milk had left us completely unravelled for a bit, but with a new perspective. As hard as we try to make the holidays perfect in every way, something is going to happen that is beyond our control. It just is. Because that is real life. Not some hallmark channel serendipitous Christmas. Real life Christmas with broken people. I were honest, it’s what we all live.
What if we worked less on the appearance of Christmas and more on the position of our hearts? What if when you kid loses it in church, or the buns burn, or the family dynamics get to be too much, what if we focus our eyes on what we are really celebrating.
Whether Caleb wore his vest and tie or his pajamas to open his few gifts is really not that big of a deal. When perspective comes spewing out at you, it causes you to view things differently.
Many families will spend the holidays in the hospital, or without a loved one for the first time. Many families throughout the world celebrate Christmas in hiding for fear of persecution.
Maybe, this year, instead of focusing on if your Family can manage to get along for long enough, or if you’ve prepared the perfect meal, and picked the right wrapping paper, perhaps we could put it aside and instead be in awe of the glory of God made flesh. And whatever comes spewing at you, my prayer is that God would give you eyes to see what he sees I that moment.
Whether speaking, writing, blogging, or ministering, Jen Hanno Sandbulte has a genuine approach. Her writing reflects snippets of a real workin mama sharing Jesus in the real world. Passionate about teaching Jesus lovers how to be real, at work, and home, and at church and infusing real prayer techniques for our everyday life. Jen is passionate about Human Trafficking as well as her family and wants to help you as you prioritize God, Family and work.
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