I tread lightly and whisper it softly, breath warming frost nipped air gathering on the tip of my nose, that we misunderstood Jesus. You may have seen this facebook status, in which I finally let loose convictions, and then I decided to allow God to use my fingertips to say what’s in the heart, here, in this journal that I am so grateful you stop by and read.
We misunderstood when he said to preach the gospel, because the gospel is pure, needs no added modern cliches, nor does it need our version of the truth added to it.
He only called us to love, and His gospel is beautiful if we just stick to it, steadfast and unflinching. Love is the hardest of all.
Our opinions come easy, and He’s asked us to lay them down and carry his cross.
I stand in a line in the cold to get some toys my girls asked for on sale. I wiggle my legs back and forth, trying to stay warm, my jeans and boots betraying me. I keep wondering if I rub the fabric briskly together, would it help, but then I’d look like an idiot, my legs and knees knocking ferociously together. So I wiggle my legs, looking as dignified as I can manage. And I shiver head to toe, all the emotion quivering inside of me. I’m so mixed up with questions, and ask myself what I’m doing in this line. Should toys be important at Christmas?
Should I let my six year old believe that Santa is bringing them on Christmas morning, as she desires to?
Advent can be a slippery thing. I want to hold it firmly in my grasp, make it work for me. But it wafts in and out of my days, elusive. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I can’t seem to figure out how I’m supposed to be going about this month.
Here’s the really hard question: does it truly matter how we celebrate Christmas?
I walk through the doors of Wal Mart, and after shopping for six, I don’t have much left, but with burning cheeks, I drop some change into the red metal box, and tell the gentleman it isn’t much but it’s all I’ve got. He takes his ear buds out and pulls them from around his bundled up garb and he tells me he doesn’t need my dollar bills; it’s the pennies and nickles and dimes that make the difference for people who had a fire destroy their home and need the basics, or for little children who don’t have coats or toys for Christmas. I peer right past his black skin, look into his eyes, and see gentleness there. There are hard lines in his face, but they only tell a story of experience because there is a lot of care in the crevices.
He tells me that he stands there for hours, and he sees people walk by and smirk his direction, as if they’re agitated someone is asking them for money. He tells me we shouldn’t judge someone in need, because we never know when *we* will be that person, and we will need help. We exchange a couple of stories, wish one another a merry christmas, and then we are off to stuff the back of the SUV full of food.
The gentleman, he continues to silently shake his bell. He doesn’t say a word, just keeps doing what he believes is right.
Does Christ need us to shout his name at Christmas? Keep the Christ in Christmas. Keep the Christ in Christmas, we say.
I think of him silent when he turns over the tables in the temple, silent when he stands before Pilot.
And when he walks to his death, no words. He only carries the cross, lives the gospel by action. He puts his muscles to work, and then as he is taking his final breaths, He takes an undeserving thief through the gates of paradise with him.
Perhaps He just wants us to continue doing what we believe is right, not what everyone else believes is right.
With so many opinions, we will stand in one place, feet firmly on the concrete, afraid to move. We’ll never shake a bell.
I wonder if I should buy toys, don’t want to have presents in the background of pictures I post, and I can hear my father in my head, almost like a ghost of Christmas past, saying there’s no shame in the fact that the entire world of retail completely relies on Christmas to pull it out of the red every year.
If it wasn’t for the celebration of Christ’s birth, and the giving of gifts, and the love of families sitting around the tree and the fireplace hearth on Christmas Eves and Christmas mornings, then our entire economy would fail.
They need Christ to bail them out. Every year. Needing Christ. Isn’t that the point of Christmas?
It is shocking and it may be gross how we indulge ourselves, but there is no shame in a world lost without Christmas coming, without the celebration of the little baby born to save us all from ruin.
On that day, every knee will bow. But here on earth, now, it is not our job to force a knee to the ground, to give a shocking blow to the back of the knee with the butt of a bible, tyranny rising heavy over their heads like the pharisees of old. Our only mission is to love and to be at peace with every man.
When it comes to the gospel and loving people, our opinions are just not needed. Only Truth. Truth that is brilliant as glory itself and is the sun of heaven, but came in the fragile skin of a baby born in a pig’s dirty slop trough.
And His truth, it reaches out and lifts a downcast face, it places a coke classic and a chicken sandwich in a dirty hand on Christmas eve. It walks up to the black couple in a mostly white church and introduces itself with a welcoming hug.
It wishes a merry Christmas, and when it receives a ‘happy holidays’, it just says thank you.
His truth, it doesn’t need to haggle over semantics and frivolous matters, but it looks into the eyes of a struggling soul, and says, I know your life is hard, I know the enemy has all but destroyed you with this world of sin. But there is a well for you to draw from, and its eternal life.
Love steers those it cares about gently back on course when it matters most. And sometimes love just keeps its mouth shut, because sometimes that’s the only way to Love.
I look around at our beautiful Santas, the white snow we’ve placed along the fireplace, lights twinkling underneath, candy ornaments on our white tree. It seems so factory made and lacking a born in a manger feel.
There are so many ways families choose to celebrate. For some, Santa visits their home, and children squeal with delight when presents are left under the tree, and they bake a birthday cake for Jesus, sing O Come, O come Emanuel, holding hands around the supper table, before dad reads from the Christmas story in Luke, and childhood is full of imagination and creativity, and one very stable, loving home, and Christ is inhabiting their hearts no less, because the promise was the Holy Spirit would come when we invite him in, not when we do a, b, and c to perfection first.
For others, ‘ol Saint Nick is exchanged for a more somber celebration of Christ’s birth, and Advent is apart of daily living for a season, candles are lit, the tree is full of ornaments, stockings are stuffed full of meaningful gifts, and for these kids, whose parents feel convicted about being honest with their children, Christmas is alive with meaning and purpose and mom and dad are looked to as spiritual mentors.
For some families, it’s not Christmas without the giving of a lot of gifts and lots of wonderful family recipes shared around the table, the Christ child worshiped around the piano, or the family piling in the car to go to mass, and the connection of the loved ones we hold most dear.
My family is this way. The traditions, they ground us, let us know where we come from so we know how to continue moving forward for generations to come, Christ leading the way.
I think of the push for Advent, how it is on the list of “shoulds” for every Christian at Christmas time.
My heart feels so crowded with “shoulds” and “have tos” that I can’t seem to hear that small, very still whisper of a voice.
And I can hear my father in my head again, his soft voice with a slight lisp, telling me that when the lightening and thunder and wind and shaking all subsided, that the still small voice said to him, “What are you doing?” A question inside of him, the spirit speaking, just a gentle nudge.
So as I mull it over, confused, and ask myself the question, what am I doing? What does Christmas really mean? Is it advent? Is it waiting? Is it decorating, cooking, shopping, spending time with family and friends? Is it singing Christmas carols? Is it placing gifts under the tree from Santa? Is it excitement like a child on Christmas morn, or is it reverence, as Mary must have felt when she pondered things quietly in her heart?
I think it’s all of these. And none of them.
Because the thing is? It just doesn’t matter.
And I love Advent; it’s a beautiful thing, the waiting for the Christ child. But I also think of my sisters and brothers in the underground church in China. They work hard to get their hands on a few sheets of God’s word. They do not have advent wreaths, or ornaments, or trees. They do not have Advent devotions. The ones killed for their faith, they can’t celebrate with their children through worship or through giving of toys this Christmas.
I think of my sisters and brothers in Syria, whose Advent prayer is for their families to still be alive in the morning, and if they go, that they would be with him in heaven. I think of the many that may die without knowing Christ.
And then Christmas takes on a whole new meaning.
We cannot add to it or take away anything. Do we believe we have that power? That God could be overrun and a big X could slash Christmas all up, and the gospel would lose its power?
I wonder what God thinks about how I celebrate Christmas? Do we believe that we have the power to give Christmas more meaning than he gave when he sent his son? Is it about me and what I’m doing this month?
I’m asking Him to let the opinions lose their power over me, and to let me be reminded of His power this December, this Advent.
I can’t grasp Advent tightly in my hands, make it work just right, I can’t squeeze all I want out of Christmas, have a carol in my heart all day long, fill myself up with Bethlehem awe and worship the Savior as he deserves. For all of my wishing to be perfect for him, I can’t conjure up worship anymore than I can make loads of dirty laundry disappear off of my dirt caked floor.
Because then it wouldn’t be worship. It would just be lip service.
The thing is, at Christmas time, what I need to know most? And what the whole sin wracked lot of us needs, and what we really need to be shouting from the roof tops if anything?
Is that we are all so horribly messed up, and there’s no way to right it. But the darling of heaven came down to save us.
And that’s the gospel. Let us worship and adore him, in holy wonder, under our own roofs, knowing He looks down upon us with great love. Let us make merry and hug our children more than usual, and drink egg nog, and invite our neighbors to dine with us. Let us shower someone with kindness that may not deserve it, let us forgive someone we hold a bitter hurt toward, and let us remember why.
Because He came. Because it’s the truth.
I’m a non-conformist, fashion-loving southern mom of four girls, wife to one good, steady, car-building man. I am a Jesus-follower, grace-seeker, and home-lover who adores spending weekends reading books in the hammock, or riding horses and roasting marshmallows over a campfire under a starry sky. I’m honest to a fault, and speak straight to the elephant in a room because I don’t do small talk well. I love writing the brave things, pulling out the things that are stuffed deep inside. We are a quiet family in the sticks, and you are welcome to come on in. The welcome mat is out and I’m makin’ sweet tea. Please stay awhile and visit and look around.
Latest posts by Diane W. Bailey (see all)
- What God Can Do with A Shattered Heart - September 5, 2022
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