The Holy and the Hell-bent

Christmas has it's own special "feeling", and it feels different this year. We've hung the stockings and eaten the fudge, planned the meal, bought the gifts. This year I've even wrapped them ahead of time and numbered them, all in an attempt to avoid the Christmas Eve wrapping frenzy and the peeking and shaking and snooping of little eyes.

Concealing a gift with pretty paper and obscure, numbered gift tags prolongs anticipation. Maybe we really did get everything we wanted?

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This year the anticipation is for something different, more, new. Something less fleeting than the potential for snow. Less transitory than the joy of gifts. Less flashy than lights and carols.

This Christmas seems to be solidly dividing my attention between new beginnings and untimely endings.

We have issues as a nation, as people, as a community and a family, and deep in my own heart sin is issuing out cynicism and defeat. I don't want to believe anything I can't see this Christmas, and I really don't want to see any more. 

The rivers and creeks were swollen with muddy water Sunday morning as we headed out to church, and we had that mix of fascination and worry - will it stop? have you ever seen it like that? is it going to overtake that home?

Part of me wanted to drive around and see all the flooding and part of me wanted it as an excuse to stay home.

I like excuses to stay home.

Venturing out can feel like being on high alert or a continual flood-warning. It's messy out there, messy in here, messy wherever people gather and even at Christmas time we can't hide our mess. We only put it off maybe, wait till the holidays are over.

Or we don't wait, and we make the gatherings awkward with our awkwardness, tense with our tension.

We are celebrating the birth of our Savior and why did Jesus come in the flesh? Why did He break the skin between the Holy and the hell-bent?

Mild He lays His glory by...

I would have stayed home, honestly.

There still seems like a great divide between myself and the Savior who came to save me from my Self. His ways, most definitely and for certain, are not my ways. But at the same time, I long to walk the road He traveled here - loving the outcast, vulnerable, and harshly judged. Correcting the smug. Maybe mostly that last one.  The divide is a thickening and thinning plot, weaving with my emotions and preferences.

We are living in an unfinished story I suppose, and that is frustrating. Sure, we know the ultimate ending and it's grand, I tell you; but in between there are floods and crosses and daily defeat. Around us are the pre-judged and the prejudiced, all the things we want to rush through to the glorious happy-ever-after.

We end the year with the Word that spoke us into being, coming as flesh to us, coming to live and give His life. It's a December-ending, rolling over to a January-beginning, and death and life circle one another as odd partners.

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untitled shoot-1853We have a cross instead of a tree this year. 

I think it's a little grim and I don't even want to get into the reasons why we might not have a tree - we are not curmudgeons or legalists here, and we would never tell you not to put a tree up in your house. But we don't have one and that makes this Christmas different.

In our living room we have a cross to remember Christ's birth, because He was born to die, born that man no more may die.

The irony is too much.

My husband wakes early and walks to the cross, plugs in the lights encircling it, and smiles. He knows what I wish so many dying people knew:

Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us in the filth of floodwaters and executions and daily deaths we try to die.

Jesus, leaving heaven for earth and saving those hell-bent on their own destruction.

Christmas feels like labor pains and new songs and a serious longing for a return to hope.

 

{Sharing with Jennifer and the #TellHisStory community}