We put up our Christmas tree last night. It’s lovely and crooked, decorated by two Cherubs who are fighting mightily with their fear that we’ll disappoint them this Christmas. Fear that the presents won’t be right, or we won’t have traditions, or that this won’t be like they dreamed of when they heard they were getting a “Round 2” family.
They will be disappointed by Christmas, of course. Most of us are. The presents under the tree aren’t all the same ones we put on our lists. The candy is delicious and then makes you a little bit sick to your stomach. And Jesus is just a baby after all, not the swashbuckling hero we’ve all been waiting for. It takes an angel or a wise man to recognize what’s going on and see the bigger picture.
I have no shot at angelic status, but this year I’m praying for wisdom to see the truth, and to live into it in a way so others can see, too. You have to kind of squint, and tilt your head a bit. But it’s there.
My Mom always made Christmas special for us. I don’t know how she did it, exactly. It wasn’t about big-ticket items, or perfect decor. I know that sounds cliche, but it really wasn’t. I kind of wish it had been, because those are tangible things I could acquire were I willing to max out our credit card to reproduce that feeling. But once you’ve had a real Christmas, Pottery Barn & Pinterest can no longer convince you with their lies. Rather, it was something about enthusiasm. My Mom LOVES Christmas. She picked wonderful presents that were filled with thought – the exact brand & flavor of lip balm you prefer showed up in your stocking from Santa. Or a pair of earrings that matched this new season of life you were heading into. The gifts Mom bought said, “I see you” as much as anything I’ve ever experienced. They made us feel known and loved.
I have no idea how to replicate that.
As I pull out all our decorations, I’m reminded of last year. It was just Steve & me then, and all our decorating felt laden with import in a different way, as we were in the middle of our home study and thus trying desperately to look like people who knew how to be a family. (I mean, we knew how to be a family. But have you ever tried to DEMONSTRATE that you know how to be something you are? It’s just AWKWARD.) The home study is where your adoption social worker comes to your house for a series of interviews. We were in the middle of building a wall in our living room, so we didn’t put up a tree because it would just get covered with drywall dust. But I BEDAZZLED the dining room. There were two manger scenes, lights, greenery, and a glamorous pink poinsettia centerpiece that I barely kept alive. There were cute tumbling Santas on the window sills and a snowman with a welcome sign at the top of the stairs. I wanted to show that we were a warm, celebratory family. You know, the kind that could be safely trusted with a couple of kids who might be blessed by some warmth and celebration.
I loved the Cherubs then, already, even though I’d only heard of them once in passing and had no idea that those kids were our kids. I loved them in an undefined sort of way that was filled with longing and hope. We prayed for them every night, and a bunch of times during each day, too. My journal is filled with speculation about how different things might be the next time we pulled out the snowmen and the mangers.
Today, I love them just as fiercely. But now it’s personal, too, which is better. That love is personal is Jesus’ message; the whole point of Christmas, really. Instead of reaching down from on high, God came close, down here. Jesus said, through all his words and actions, I see you. I know you. I love you. Humanity hadn’t experienced this that directly since the Garden of Eden. And yet we can have it today if we want it. And we can let God use us to be it to other people, too.
This is my prayer as I fret over new traditions and Christmas wish lists – and over my own hopes that feel too big to ask for, even though I’ve been invited to ask:
Lord, use me to help my family and friends feel seen, known, and loved. I can’t do it on my own. I bumble around and get tripped by obstacles. Teach me to walk by faith and not by sight. Thank you that you order my steps. Show us how to celebrate in a way that is warm and deep and filled with you. Let your Kingdom come, and your will be done, here in my living room…and at Target, and Barnes & Noble, and Sports Authority, and I-95 North & South…here on earth as it is in Heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.