I have always loved Christmas.
I have wonderful memories of singing carols, baking cookies with my Mom and sister,
wrapping gifts, (though admittedly, mine end up looking more like lumps of coal when I'm done with them), night time drives to see the twinkling Christmas lights,
parties and reading the Advent story with my family.
There's excitement in the air as little children count down the days until Christmas,
when they finally get to open their presents.
The smell of cookies in the oven permeates the house while the carols
softly play in the background.
It's the most wonderful time of the year...
But in the middle of it all, life gets messy.
Children fight and spouses argue,
bills pile up and the cookies get burnt.
Disappointments threaten to steal the very joy we talk about so freely,
and soon the pain of living in a broken world
trumps the glory of the supernatural.
When I take a minute to actually reflect on the Advent of Christ,
I realize His coming was hardly the dreamy picture of Christmas I have conjured in my mind.
It was messy.
He was born to a young girl who was most likely rejected for what people thought was a horrible sin she'd committed.
She traveled with her soon-to-be husband to a town miles away while she was great with child,
and birthed the Son of God in a feeding trough.
I can only imagine the glory that came down from heaven that holy night,
and the wonder that Mary and Joseph must have felt
when they held Him for the first time.
But the circumstances of his birth, though full of heavenly glory,
were far from our idea of what the perfect Christmas should look like.
And I am so grateful that it wasn't.
Because Christ - God in human form - became one of us.
He faced every temptation we face.
He was exhausted, He had bills to pay.
He struggled with relating to people who had hurt Him, even though He never sinned like we do.
He was lonely, He was rejected, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief".
Friends, if anyone gets messy, it's our God.
He knows just how ugly sin is;
He died because of it.
The wonder of Christmas is Emmanuel: God with us.
Because Christ came to this earth,
we have hope.
And the hope we have because of Jesus is the greatest gift of all.
My prayer for myself - and for all of us - is that the wonder of Christmas
would be in the joy that comes from knowing Jesus,
God with us.
Merry Christmas, friends!