This year I was asked to write and read a Christmas essay at our church Christmas dinner, I thought I would post it here...enjoy
"I have always been creative and had an imagination that would run wild if I let it. I can hear a snippet, a song, or see a picture, and what feels like immediately a story forms. I remember Christmas in my house as I grew up. Santa was very important in my family. We went to church and heard about Jesus every Sunday. But Christmas was about Santa and his presents. My parents really played up the Santa part, maybe it’s because my dad is creative like me. He wanted me to have this thing to believe in, he also did this with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as well. Santa was so real in our house, that his pants were left in the fireplace one year (we were told they must have caught in the chimney…poor Santa had to finish his deliveries pant less…or maybe he had a spare pair this couldn’t have been his first pair of caught pants). The year we got a dog her tail had a bend in it (from a healed break I am sure), but we were told it must have gotten bent by coming down the narrow chimney. One year Santa was even on our roof when we got home from church Christmas Eve. Oh yeah, Santa came to our house about 5:30pm every Christmas Eve, while we were at church. We must have been the first house he came to. I think my imagination and my parents antics were why I believed in Santa for way too long. I am telling you this for context, not because Christianity was a joke in our family. It wasn’t. My parents both have very real relationships with God, but due to whatever reason, their relationships were very private, and it wasn’t until much later that I saw the realness of their relationships, not until my relationship was real as well.
Somewhere along my journey I longed to come out of my imagination and experience something real. When I did I was blessed with something I could never have imagined. All those stories I had heard in church were not “feel good” Christian stories, they were real. And God was real and wanted me to know him. The first time Jesus became an actual man to me I was sitting in church on Easter Sunday, and the pastor told this graphic story of a man crucified so that I could live a life free from the sins I had committed. The pastor brought to reality, the humanness of Christ, and with that the pain that he suffered, and the blood that he shed. I remember sitting there in awe realizing that this God was real, not just a Sunday school story. When I heard this account, I was in a place where I needed forgiveness; I needed something other than life on this earth to live for. Jesus and his suffering became real to me that day.
I believe children are a gift, and if we allow them to, these children, whether born to us or to others can teach us so much, if we just watch them with soft and open hearts. My first Christmas as a mom the reality of Christ as a man hit home again, here I was holding my son, and thinking about Mary holding Jesus. Jesus the son of God, the one who would die for my sins, was born a baby. A baby whose every physical need came from his earthly mother, because that’s how God designed it. A baby who cried when he was hungry, who felt the cold of the night air in the stable, one who cried for reasons unknown to his parents. A baby who was comforted at his mother’s breast, who learned to speak, crawl and walk like we all do. But this baby was different, he would live a selfless, and blameless life, and would one day save the lost in this world.
Again this Christmas season I was struck by realness…but also by childlike faith. As I was meditating on and preparing to write this essay, our Christmas decorations came out, and part of those decorations is a stuft nativity scene. Watching my son and my niece rock baby Jesus, carrying him around the house, they talk to him, cradle him, and basically love on him. I think this is what Christmas is. It’s about Jesus being real, about his birth as a human, in humble surroundings, and it’s about the beginning of a life that would save us, and draw us closer to our God, our creator.
Whenever I think of the reality of Jesus as flesh and blood, my heart begins to speed up, and I am overwhelmed by the personal God we have, one that loves us so much he sent his son to live, and experience pain and sorrow, and to eventually experience the worst pain of all, so that I could live knowing Him and His love. So I could call on Him and ask of Him anything, so I would never really be alone, so I would always be loved. I want my son to know this God and his son. I want Christmas in our house to be the story of his birth, the baby Jesus to be as real as any baby we will meet in our lifetime.
So Christmas in our house will not be about Santa, in fact I am not sure Santa will even play a part. But every year there will be a baby present. I am excited to be able to use my creativity and imagination to bring the truth into our home in a tangible way. I was surprised to learn only last year that most of the “commercialized” symbols of Christmas actually have a long history and can be tied back to the true Christmas story. It is my hope that when we read the Christmas story, Holden will hear it as a true story, and it won’t take him 20 years for Jesus to be real to him."