Earlier this week, I was putting Henry to bed and having one of our usual, long, night time chats when he almost started to cry.
“I just never have any Christmas dreams. I only have bad dreams lately. I never have Christmas dreams or dreams about Jesus, and I want to have dreams about Jesus because he’s a really good guy!”
I asked Henry whether I could pray over him before bed, that God would grant him peaceful rest and good dreams, and we prayed together as my big little guy turned over and settled down into sleep.
Isn’t this a picture of what we’re all feeling, just days before Christmas? We don’t want to have the bad dreams, the hardest moments, the scary things–especially when we’re trying to celebrate the most beautiful things instead. The beauty of Christmas and the peace of Jesus are so much more our heart’s desire. Maybe four year olds just have a way of seeing what we all feel way down deep and do not say.
It’s hard when we don’t control all circumstances, and when the things we want feel out of reach. More of Jesus would be so much better, and he is…but in the midst of life and busyness and stress and unrest, how do we find Him?
Today is set apart, because on Christmas, we know where much of the world is looking, and we can look, too. We turn our attention to Bethlehem, the manger, the virgin girl searching for Jesus right with us, even as she gives birth to Him in a lowly stable. We sing the songs that tell and retell the story, we light our candles, we break bread together around the table, we open gifts.
And the love that was poured out on the night of Christ’s birth pushes through the hard and the hurting, even if only for a moment.
This is the gift that remains long after the tree has been put away…the one handed to all of us, whether there’s a box anywhere with our name on it at all. At Christmas, we look and long and maybe even cry out, and the tiny hand of a newborn baby reaches out and offers hopeful grace for the days to come.
I’ve spent a lot of time asking God to guide me into a pattern graceful living this month, knowing that on my own, I might be hard pressed to find the rhythm. And it has been much harder than I’d like to admit most days, and I’ve had to battle more than I imagined to truly get to a space of living gracefully instead of hastily.
Christmas does not bring out the best in all of us when we’re feeling so pressed to keep up and show up (and sometimes, one up). The “Christmas spirit” has often felt more to me like striving and achieving and less like just arriving and believing. I’ve had to fend off all of the things I think I want for all of the good that God has for me, instead. It’s easy to get confused…it’s so easy to be human and forget about the divine.
I suppose I’ve felt a bit like Henry as this Christmas Day came closer. I found myself in the middle of things I didn’t want, when I was craving Christmas and that “really good guy,” Jesus, in my heart.
So I asked Him. I asked to be reminded of the graceful in this season. I asked for slowed down moments and the ability to stop myself in places where I needed more air and less perfection. Arriving at today felt like a marathon, but the good, stretching, growing kind where you PR in the end and have sure footing at the finish line.
This morning, Henry woke up excited as he shouted “Merry Christmas!” from his bed and anxiously awaited the house rising from sleep and into this long-awaited Christmas Day. He was in such a contagiously good mood. And he told me right away as if top of mind, “Mom! I had a Christmas dream! I dreamed that me and Eloise and our cousins were all together, and it was Christmas morning!!!” I couldn’t help but remember our conversation from a few short days ago, and that prayer we offered up to God together, in expectation for what He would do.
Christmas is a season of expectation, and I think it’s a matter of how we set that expectation that makes the difference. Today was imperfect by some standards…nearly all of our family was far away, Eloise had a fever, I didn’t get brunch on the table until 1pm. But it was perfect in this: after days of praying that my heart could be set on graceful living in this Christmas season, God has faithfully shown me where “graceful” resides, all day long.
Graceful is acknowledging the imperfect and finding the joy anyway. Graceful is a tiny reprieve from a heavy burden. Graceful is a walk in the sunshine in Christmas pajamas at 2pm and Face Time conversations with people we love. Graceful is unplanned and utterly welcome guests. It’s putting down agendas for the sake of others, saying “yes” when “no” feels easier and saying “no” when “yes” is past our limitations. Graceful is what we find when we look to God and ask for help, and He sends us a Savior in the form of a helpless babe.
I am so thankful for this Christmas that has taught me so much about loving and living–in and through and in spite of feelings and circumstances. Tonight, I’ll head to bed early, heart full, stomach full, house full, grace full. I hope that wherever you are and however you’ve spent it, this day has left you full in all of the good ways, too.
Sweet dreams, and Merry Christmas.