Ever since my husband and I moved so far away from our children, I don’t get to enjoy some of my favorite things about celebrating Christmas. I can’t decorate my house and have our family over for a big home-cooked dinner. We now gather at a restaurant for a couple of hours to eat and exchange gifts. We choose one close to the towns where my two sons live, and also near where my daughter’s family goes to visit her husband’s relatives.
I really miss having them all in my home, the floor of the great room covered in bodies and wrapping paper during the opening of gifts. The kitchen counters covered in dirty dishes and leftovers after the meal. I miss the chaos, the mess, the joy. But at some point during our Christmas trip across several states this year, my husband and I will be at my daughter’s house. And because that’s where our three grandchildren are, there will be paper scattered over the floor, stray toy parts, and plenty of chaos. Heck, I may throw some ribbon on the floor myself. And most likely, I will once again share one of my favorite Christmas memories…
One December afternoon years ago, I spent a couple of hours lugging boxes down our rickety attic stairs. Right away my two youngest children got excited and started opening them to peek inside. Before I left the room again, I gave instructions to look, but not take anything out until we got ready to use it. I was determined to decorate our house in an orderly manner, one step at a time. Several minutes later, I returned to find most of the boxes’ contents scattered across the shag carpet.
How could I argue with that? I thought about the chaos and mess during the first Christmas. Mary and Joseph having to travel to an overcrowded city to register for the census. Giving birth to Jesus in a stable, away from family, friends, home. Yet a plan older than time itself unfolded that night. God looked down at a world messed up by sin and gave what was needed—a Messiah.
The world hasn’t changed that much. People still make a mess of things. We suffer and we cause suffering. I’m so grateful that the baby in the manger has changed. Jesus grew up, lived a sinless life, then willingly died to pay for the sins of the world. After being raised to life again, He stepped back into His heavenly home to prepare a place for those who believe and receive Him.
Sometimes the innocent wonder of a child points us back toward what’s really important. As December approaches, we can feel pressured to put together the perfect Christmas. That drive for perfection steals our joy and piles on the stress whenever our holiday, or when life, gets messy. We can truly experience Christmas by looking past the messes in our lives, focusing on the Child in the manger, and worshipping Him as the One who was called “Wonderful” hundreds of years before His birth by the prophet Isaiah.
So that December afternoon, I looked at my children sitting among piles of tangled ribbon, tinsel, and garland. Messy, yes–but I had to agree with my daughter, “You’re right, darling. It is wonderful!”
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Dianne Neal Matthews is the author of four daily devotional books including The One Year Women of the Bible (Tyndale House) and Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation (Baker Books). She also writes for websites, blogs, and compilations (including Guideposts’ Mornings with Jesus). Dianne and her husband, Richard, have three children and three grandchildren, and currently live in southeast Texas. Please visit www.DianneNealMatthews.com or connect through Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.