Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Incarnation, Then and Now

-- There is something about Christmas that flat-out refuses to be simple. It just will come with cramped quarters, groans and struggle, hard work and extreme inconvenience--Mary knew all about it, didn't she? Her life, so beautifully planned, suddenly and monumentally interrupted by none other than God Almighty! The angel He sent, Gabriel, told Mary she was favored among all women, and had been chosen to bear God's only Son. Her still innocent child's heart was so trusting, so willing to accept the honor and the profound responsibility of parenting the great I AM. Her faith astounds.
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Luke 1:38 NIV
As if she and Joseph didn't have enough to deal with, what with trying to explain the baby before the wedding and all, suddenly Caesar Augustus had his brilliant idea to call for a census. Not only that, but they had to travel all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem right at the time of her due date! Eighty miles on the back of a donkey when you're that far along can't be easy. This trip, this complication in their lives couldn't have come at a worse time!! What was it about Christmas? Why did the Incarnation have to arrive with such upheaval? Why does it still? The particulars of my Christmas this year are worlds away from Mary's, and I don't pretend to know even an inkling of what she endured, but her faith and her example can speak to me in my experience today. While much more ordinary, my strains and inconveniences during the weeks leading up to what should be a joyous season echo many of the struggles and question marks she must have grappled with. Right before Thanksgiving my life was unexpectedly (and gladly) interrupted by the great joy and honor of being asked to take my daughter and some other girls from her youth group to a conference for teenage girls. I hadn't planned on it, hadn't known it was coming, but what a great opportunity!! What a blessing!! After a wonderful time of touching heaven and letting heaven touch us with how much God loves us as His daughters, we came home on a mountain-top high. Two days later I had what would develop into pneumonia that made me miss Thanksgiving with my family. After antibiotics, another infection and a second round of antibiotics, I'm not sick anymore, but the nagging cough seems reluctant to leave completely--it makes me weary. Hard on the heels of being so sick, I was called by the Census Bureau and was offered a job in our local Census office--I started work two days later, last Thursday. What a whirlwind!! All this when Christmas is fast approaching, I'm supposed to be registering to go back to school for the spring semester, AND my kids will be out of school for three weeks and I won't get to be there. I have been a stay-at-home-mom for 18 years, and this is a hard pill to swallow, no matter how much of an answer to prayer it is for our finances, no matter how willing I am to do whatever it takes to help care for my family. Groans, straining, hard work and extreme inconvenience--yes, Mary would know how I've been feeling. It's been a little bit hard to get as excited about Christmas this year as I usually do. Saturday morning, in the middle of all my feelings of upheaval and claustrophobic demands and limitations, I had promised my kids (now 18 and 13) that we would decorate the tree together and surprise My Tony with it when he got home from his meetings that afternoon. I had promised, but I wasn't feeling it . . . AT ALL!! I was fighting with myself, knowing I would ruin the whole day if I didn't get my attitude right, but all I could think about was all I had to do and how little time I had and . . . and . . . AND . . . Finally I did get into the groove and with the kids' great help we got the decorating done and had a great time together. A great time together until . . . My Tony walked in and I realized I didn't have dinner ready, the after-decorating cleanup hadn't begun, I looked a mess, there were dirty dishes in the sink and I just crumbled. In that moment all I could see was that my big surprise must have seemed more like a big nightmare when he walked in the door. It felt like a disaster. But just before I could completely lose it, incarnation happened. Jesus put on flesh in my very own house. First She-So-Sweet looked intently into my brimming eyes, knowing me so well, and reminded me of what we had learned at our conference, "Don't forget!! You're God's daughter!! He loves you!" Then Drummer-Boy grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "You're a good mama!! We love you so much!!" While they were putting the scattered pieces of me back together, My Tony put aside the chaos in the house and started dinner so we could concentrate on finishing what we'd started. Through each of them, I saw Jesus and Christmas and incarnation in the midst of my upheaval. I don't really know why Christmas seems to know no other way but to come in the midst of and in spite of chaos, except that it mirrors what Jesus did when He came. Our entire existence on the best of days is chaos compared to what God intended. His deepest desire was to give us back what we lost, so He sent Jesus into our chaos to bring us into His incomprehensible peace. I pray that your Christmas season, no matter what circumstances surround it this year, will be filled with the sparkle of moments of dazzling incarnation that will fill you with great joy and the peace Jesus came so far to bring.
Tell me how Jesus is making His incarnation come alive for you this Christmas!!
holy experience

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