For our family, the holidays are crazy. When you live in one town and ALL of your family on both sides- mine and Chris’s families- live all together in another town, things get crazy. Everyone wants to see you. Everyone wants to have a special audience with you and your children. It’s really nice to be loved that much. It’s really nice to have people want you to be with them, but scheduling in all of those visitations and gifting and eating makes for a crazy existence. Factor in some divorced parents, several sets of aunts and uncles, and a sprinkle of great grands, and your holiday schedule starts to look like a clown car full of polar bears. So many gifts to exchange, so many gatherings to attend, and so many opportunities to feel like I have failed at something.
I wanted to hand-make a Christmas stocking for Milam. I didn’t finish. I feel guilty that Milam will somehow know one day that his sister had a stocking and he didn’t, and this knowledge will cause him to smoke crack and date loose women.
I took three pictures of Christmas morning. Two of them were blurry and one Chris took of me. I have a muffin top and crazy hair. I feel guilty for not better documenting my son’s first Christmas and lard-bombing the only clear memory my children will have of the day.
It was my intention to make sure that we took time as a family to sit and reflect on the miracle of God coming to earth to live with us. I had visions of my cherub-cheeked offspring and me snuggled together reading Luke 2 while drinking homemade hot cocoa. In reality, the only reading I did was a tattered copy of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish while Eloise picked her nose in my lap.
I had special Christmas outfits ready for my kids to wear to church on Christmas Eve. We didn’t even go to church on Christmas Eve. We couldn’t decide which church to even go to.
Nothing I had planned went like I had planned it. Christmas didn’t feel like the sacred space in the year that it usually does. I was so worried about gifts and wrapping and entertaining and being entertained, that I didn’t make space in my brain or my heart for the quiet glow of reflection on Christ’s birth. He wouldn’t have been proud of how I spent my holiday. I knew this, and that knowledge made my failure creep up and engulf me until I discovered that I had become grumpy and embittered. Not only had I succumb to the chaos of the holiday season, but I had succumb to the chaos of my own heart.
That is the thing about chaos. It’s a tricky adversary. It prefers to creep in slowly when we aren’t looking. It’s a hot darkness that undulates in and around you until you all of a sudden it has you by the throat and you can’t breathe. Very rarely does it come out of nowhere. Not for me, at least. My chaos starts with a simple event- a phone call, a letter in the mail, Advent season, whatever, and begins to grow. It builds when you have to fit more items than can fit into a minivan in the rain. Add to that the parties and realization that I have nothing to wear that isn’t shrunken or poop stained. Include the fact that we all had the stomach virus, and our bank account is small, and I tried to make Pinterest Christmas gifts for everyone that didn’t turn out right and I didn’t get enough sleep and I didn’t bring enough wrapping paper with me to Montgomery but who wants to spend money on wrapping paper and why can’t we just get our act together enough one time to attend church on Christmas Eve, and my children are going to end up delinquents because we didn’t provide the right foundation for them. It builds one out-of-my-control event at a time until the only thing I can control, my attitude, gets choked out and I”m left gasping and turning blue.
But fear not, y’all. Here’s some good news of great joy for all people.
God loves chaos.
It’s his favorite.
How do I know?
Because that is where He always seems to show up.
He could have chosen anyone to give birth to His son. He picked an unwed teenage mother who no one believed was a virgin. If that weren’t enough, he chose a time when the first born male babies were undergoing genocide. Add to that the fact that a census was being taken so they had to go to a small town far away on a donkey to be counted for some stupid government rule. Think about that- nine months pregnant… on a donkey…. for a month… Once they got to Bethlehem, the unwed teenage mother Mary and her scandalized fiancé Joseph couldn’t get a room in any of the hotels. They were all full. So Mary had the baby in a place where the animals were kept. Nobody helped her have that baby, either. She was all alone in a stable with Joseph (who I am sure was totally freaking out at this woman whom he had never had sex with squirting a baby out). And then there he was, God as a baby, naked and bloody with an exhausted, outcast, saddle sore teenage mother, and a father who probably wished he could unsee everything he had just seen. They didn’t have clothes or a bed, so they wrapped him in some barn rags they found and laid him in a watering trough. Great googley-moogley.
Everyone knows that part of the story, But the chaos doesn’t end there. What about the next morning? When the sun came up, there they were, a couple of bloodied, exhausted unwed teenagers with this raggedy baby hanging out in a barn. What happened when people came to fetch their animals and saw them there? How did they explain themselves? How did Mary get rest with a new baby in that barn and no one to help her but the cows? Where did they get food? It’s not like there were grocery stores or restaurants close by. What did she do when her butt hurt after sitting on a donkey for a month and then immediately having a baby? How did she take a shower to get her and the baby clean? How long did they stay there? How did she figure out how to breastfeed properly?
It’s just too much chaos for me to even comprehend. And yet, that is the very situation that God chose to come to us. That is how He wanted the story of His life on earth to be written. He could have been born a prince in a palace. He could have been born as a member of the Kennedy family. He could have been born in a peaceful field or a soft bed or in the warmth of a tropical island. But a barn? To an ancient Hester Prynne? In Bethlehem? After a donkey ride?. He chose to be born right into a situation that offered Him no advantages at all. No food, no clothes, no shower, no status, no power, no room in the inn- right in the thick of the black seeping chaos of life on earth. This was His choice. This is the place where He wanted to be more than any other.
I don’t get it. I really don’t.
And yet, that is right where He found me this year, lost in the middle of the chaos of the holiday season in ‘Merica. Of His holiday season in ‘Merica. And I think that was exactly where He wanted to show up. That is how He is with His children. He picks out most chaotic moments and comes on the scene, not to bring order to our circumstances, but to bring order to our hearts. He finds places that offer no advantages to him at all- no recognition, no worship, no money, no status, broken, disabled utter chaos of our sinful selves and comes on the scene. He comes quietly, unassuming, like a little baby. It’s a beautiful picture of how he loves us in our weaknesses, one out-of-our-control moment at a time.
So and so the next time one kid has pooped in her pants, the other kid is eating paper, one dog peeing on the floor, the other one is barking at a squirrel, the phone is ringing, and the washing machine is overflowing (which will most likely be sometime today), I will do my best to remember that these moments are when God shows up. He doesn’t leave us to be choked by the chaos. Instead, He climbs right into the driver’s seat of our clown car full of polar bears and drives off into the sunset.