Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Life & Faith / Thoughts

Christmas Thoughts

Fog falls heavy and hard on the soul and I can’t make sense of how things can be so carefree in one moment only to feel completely frustrating in the next. Twists and turns of unexpected and frantic searching for the peace that is supposed to be here this time of year but feels more absent than usual.

There is no crisis, except one in my own heart, at the place where I couldn’t grasp and hold and control all that I wanted the days of December to be. I wanted laughter and meaning and the weightlessness of a perfectly beautiful season suspended in time and memory for the years to come. Instead I was met with the paradox of beauty found in the miry, desperate place…beauty that is missed when we make glossy the things born out of hardship.

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I thought for sure, being rather pregnant this Christmas season, that I would feel drawn to the story of Mary, carrying child in the expectation and uncertainty of what is to come, but that has not been the case. I still look and feel very pregnant, but my heart has identified most closely with the helplessness, the smallness, and the humility of baby Jesus. I have been pounded from all sides with struggles and sadness that derailed all my great plans for a carefree Advent, and while I have felt not-at-all comfortable in my moments of struggle, I do see how each one has given me a way to glimpse into the truest beauty of the of the Nativity…the gifts that come in unexpected packages, in unexpected places, but also with intention and purpose.

This month I have been truly humbled. Not the kind of humility the ego aspires to…that brand of humility that makes one appear noble or selfless when they really may not be under the surface. But the humility that rubs against tender places, the humility that hurts and costs more than maybe we thought at first glance, but also produces fruitfulness that would never be possible if we didn’t journey through seasons that put us in touch with the dirt, our faces in it, with mud made from our tears of lament and loss. It’s only in the dirt the seed can germinate, and yet, I do my best to resist going there until I have no other choice and am dropped right down in it.

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It seems like at Christmas, we want to make everything merry and bright and totally forget the ways the heart hurts and the soul struggles. But wounds are real, and acknowledging our struggles does not take anything away from the beauty of the Christmas story…if anything, it makes the story of the coming of Jesus as a helpless babe, entering into filth and humanity, all because of His great love for us…all the more beautiful. You can’t convince me that the Nativity was a scene of an immaculately kept barn, a warm and picturesque place of birth with angels singing and animals gathered round and an effortless arrival of a newborn child. I know way too much about natural childbirth to believe that. In the moments leading up, I imagine it was cold, dark, dirty, and desperate…which makes me feel just a bit better that this month for me has been anything but picturesque. It’s ok. The upside-down Christmas is maybe the truest one…The King of Glory surprising everyone and coming in the lowest way imaginable, not as a conquering King, but as a humble one, showing us even from the first moments of His life on earth that our journey with Him will be messy beautiful and not always perfectly merry and bright.

And so, I guess I wish you a messy Christmas…one that is hopefully merry and joyful and filled with magic, but more than pinterest-perfect, I hope it is full of deep meaning, connection with God and the ones you love, and marked by perseverance through your own struggles and trials with the promise that out of humble places come the greatest gifts.

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