Seeking Emmanuel in the Crazy

We had an amazing Christmas service with our church today. The story of Jesus, starting with creation, told throughout the earth’s history, ending with his resurrection, accompanied by beautiful music. During the service my shoulders lifted from stress that had been weighing them down. My anxious thoughts calmed and focused on this story that never grows old. 

I needed that church service to hit the reset button. 

I wish that I could tell you that I have risen above the stress of 2020 and the Christmas season,, and I am peacefully gliding through the crazy, prioritizing, putting people first over TO DO lists, remembering that Jesus is the Reason for the Season etc etc…But I’m actually not doing a very great job, in my own estimation. I have been snappy, irritable, not handling things well. My family is getting irritated at me. I’m getting irritated at me. The church service this morning was good. It restored some peace. But I am shocked at how quickly I step back into my irritable mode. Once a week doses of God’s presence aren’t enough. Once a day isn’t enough. I am needing a constant turning. A constant reminder that God is good. That Christmas is about celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, not about doing all the fun activities and getting all the best presents. 

I am obviously not writing this from a place of achievement or even a place of rest and peace. I am writing this from the perspective of a mom who is frazzled, worn out, wanting to make Christmas great for her kids, but is instead rushing and stressing. And I need Jesus. I need peace. I need a constant reminder that I am not alone, that loving my family is more important than making Christmas cookies just-so, or having the house clean at all times. I need a heavy dose of patience and perspective. 

I am writing some reminders on my hands. Emmanuel. Jesus is here with us, I am saved, never alone. Peace. Christmas traditions are not as important as loving your family. Everyone would prefer a calm mom rather than a mom who has done all the stuff. 

I am hoping that over the next week I will see the words on my hands often. I will stop yelling. I’ll take a deep breath. Walk away for a minute. Reset. Start again. 

We’ll see how it goes as I seek Emmanuel and his peace.

Conflict and Emmanuel

The upcoming Christmas season has me conflicted. I have decided to not host our annual Christmas Party. And a lot of that has to do with trying to be sensitive to others. But, when I made the decision to not host this year, I admit, I felt a big sigh of relief. Which is why I feel conflicted. I love our annual Christmas party. It is almost better than Christmas morning itself. A time when I get to see all my friends in one place, share our house and all the Christmas decorations. A time to bake a ton of treats and cook yummy savory things to munch on. A time to just celebrate. A normal year, I would be devastated to not have our party. But this year, I’m not. 

I’m tired. Stretched thin. 

Every year is challenging, but then throwing in covid, quarantines, school shutdowns, a horrific election year, riots, more covid, a giant host of conspiracy theories to sift through…yeah, that kind of tipped the scale to Insanely Hard Year. I know I’m not the only one tired. Everyone seems to be in a race to get to January 1st. Like somehow the turning of the calendar page will make all the troubles go away.

So, tough year, no party. No concerts. No big events. Despite all that, I am trying to make this Christmas as meaningful as possible for our family. We did our traditional Decorate-for-Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. Got a nice tree. Put up our nutcrackers. I made myself a Christmas Stick. We’ve got music playing. We’ve started our nightly Advent Readings with the kids. I got everyone a new Christmas mug and we’ve been having lots of hot cocoa and hot tea and hot apple cider. We’re off to a good start. We watched a Christmas movie. 

The kids are sad about things being different this year. Why?? They want to know. Umm. Covid. That is the answer for everything nowadays. But I secretly feel a little guilty because I am relieved to have an excuse. Yeah. Covid. Or, Mom is too tired to interact socially with other people this year. 

Fortunately, all my inner conflict and guilt is solely centered around social stuff. The real meaning of Christmas has my heart singing. This year it is hitting me even harder, a rush of joy, relief, awe, that Jesus chose to come to earth to save me. Save us. 

If anything, this year has been a good reminder of just how fallen and messed up we are. Our division, our fighting, our selfishness, our violence, our constant leaning towards evil. We are desperately in need of a Savior. Someone who can wipe the slate clean. Someone who can actually get into our hearts and change them. Someone who can rescue us from our self-destruction. 

I sat down to my hymnbook yesterday and turned to the Christmas section. My hymnbook is arranged by theme, so it has an Advent section. I played through the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. My husband came and sat at the piano with me and we sang together…

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,

And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heav’nly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,

In ancient times didst give the law

In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

As we begin this Christmas Season, this is my prayer. Come Lord Jesus, Come. Make all things new again. It’s been a rough year, and we have no guarantees that next year will be magically better. But, it doesn’t matter. Jesus has come. We now have hope. We have a future with Jesus to look forward to. And no matter how our circumstances and traditions change, Jesus doesn’t. His promises hold true. He came, he died, he rose again, he has given us his Holy Spirit. And one day we will see him face-to-face. 

And so we rejoice. Christmas is here. We celebrate Emmanuel, God with us.