It’s the Most Wonderful (Futile) Time of the Year

“I have a proposition,” I declared last night as I wiped down the counters after the dinner dishes were done. “How about the kids go take their baths now, put on their pjs… (yes the groaning was starting and the Oh MOMS and the scowls and eye rolling)… and grab blankets and get in the car to drive around and look at Christmas lights!” And suddenly I went from Grinch to SuperMom in 3.4 seconds flat. Hooray for MOM!

As we directed the car from bright spot to bright spot there were ooohs and ahhhs and happy conversations. We viewed the house on the hill with the massive trees and presents and more green lights than an airport. Then, it was on to Candy Cane Lane where the entire street is decorated for Christmas. The first house sported a nativity scene and from there we saw Cars, Looney Tunes, polar bears skiing down from the roof, and a miniature ferris wheel filled with stuffed animals. Over to Bob’s now! Bob was out surveying his fantasy kingdom… the fake snow blowing, Santa in the window directing the music, and the dancing bear dressed as Santa in the garage. Well, how can you trump that? Daddy had another house in mind… one where you tune the radio to their special station and the lights… no joke… go on and off in time to the music. Mickey and Minnie are the hosts, singing along and directing the spectacle. Seriously, it was theme park worthy. And it begged the question… who in the world has the time?

I’m not sure if it was the impromptu trip to Ohio or the long-awaited family vacation in Europe, or maybe it is the week shorter build-up or a just general falling behind in everything, but I’ve felt a bit of a Christmas humbug this year. There has been an emptiness, a lack of joy to the decorating and baking and addressing and purchasing and wrapping, like it’s all rote and futile. In a fit of despair, I posted on Facebook on Thursday, “Deep thought for the day: two weeks from today the gifts will all be opened and the trappings will need to come down.”

Just like that, it’s all over.

Except that it’s not supposed to be all over. It is supposed to be just beginning. The days will start getting longer again, a daily reminder that the light, the warmth, the rebirth, the spring is coming. The birth of a baby centuries ago, sought after by shepherds, kings, an entire race long awaiting their Messiah, led to a revolution of thinking about God and God’s own revolution in the world, upending sin and evil, squashing the bitter end and offering instead the bright glory. His story is just beginning over and over and over in our hearts.

Perhaps right now I most relate to the innkeeper Mary and Joseph met in Bethlehem… any one of them really… hustled, frantic, tired… bone weary with no end in sight to the torrent of people, the possibility of profit, the bodies crammed in rooms, demanding food. The innkeeper who can’t see the miracle in the doorway for the crowds of demands. All I’ve got room for, time for, is the stable out back. Take it if you want it Lord Jesus, at least it’s something, not much to offer, but well, that’s all I’ve got. Scraps for the miracle.
Of course, the miracle is that He takes those scraps, is comfortable in those scraps, and like my little boy who can look at a scrap piece of paper and see a million possibilities in its shape, He takes those scraps and origami-style folds them into beauty.

I’d rather be the kings, rushing, curious, ever searching, intent and not distracted, sand-whipped and sun-parched but determined. Because that star means something great and that is a great I need, we need… crave. It lasts longer than the star itself, the greatness. It is brighter than the star that leads and heralds and proclaims. It is joy, rejoicing, daily goodness and radical life. The greatness. Where is it?

I followed the lights last night, through the city, searching for the greatest display. Those weren’t the lasting lights. They’ll come down shortly, get wound around, tangled, crammed in a box, stored in the darkness for another year.

But the greatness, the miracle is the permanent light, the God in baby-shape, in man-shape who offers the gifts of peace and love and joy and forgiveness of sins. Right now, he’s in the stable of my heart, relegated to the straw and the cold, dark recesses.

He waits.

I don’t need to search, sand-whipped and sun-parched.

He is waiting… waiting for me to throw open the doors of my heart, put aside the demands, close my eyes to the glitz, the computer-generated, the futile, for me to turn from all that and say, “I choose you instead.” There is nothing futile about that beginning again.