There are some traditions that follow you wherever you go. As I survey the Christmas carnage in our living room, I’m reminded of this. Scraps of white tissue paper and bits of green tree litter the floor alongside a sprinkling of what could be considered the less-important Christmas booty. Dollar store goodies, magic tricks, keychains, and an already mangled slinky lay strewn across the area rug next to crumpled empty stockings and about a million candy wrappers. This could be our Christmas in the states. (This could actually be our Christmas from 2 years ago, since – due to the house having been robbed in Sept – it is almost a complete do over.) But, looking around, watching the boys marvel over a few new things with grins plastered across their faces, takes me back to a simpler time. The time when cheap stocking stuffers didn’t have to travel 3,000 miles buried next to Grammas socks and undies, when I could buy 100 sheets of tissue paper for a $1.99 instead of buying it sheet by sheet for 10 cents a piece, and when giving a gift didn’t require twenty six hours of online shopping and 7-10 days delivery. It’s true that there are aspects of life here that are simpler, quieter, more old-fashioned. But I’m talking about knowing how to get stuff done, like, where to shop, how to get a good deal and then get it wrapped and under the tree by midnight on the 25th. As different as making this mornings Christmas revelry happen may have been in comparison to previous years, I feel like the result has been pretty much the same. The kids are happy, feeling very loved and spoiled by their family from across the globe. The mess is as big as ever. And Steve and I are filled with the quiet satisfaction that comes from bringing joy to our kids and giving all the credit to the big guy in red. I love it. I love sitting here in the middle of the room as they go about the cheerful business of sorting pokemon cards and reading through instruction manuals, and excitedly searching the whole house for “just one more AA battery”. It’s like for just this moment in time, we’re not weird. We’re just celebrating Christmas like always. Awesome.
I love the Christmas story as written in Luke. It is a great telling of the most beautiful event in the history of the world. God in the form of a baby, with us, living breathing flesh among us, to bring peace and hope to the world. Incredible. But there is one line, toward the end of the story, that always tugs at me. And the truth is, it has little to do with story itself. See Luke tells this whole epic story including Angels, and Kings, Wise men and shepherds, and a miraculous infant. And in the end he writes:
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
I love that. Here is his young woman, called upon by God to carry the child that would change the world. She’s newly married to a guy that should have left her and could have had her stoned, and suddenly finds herself far from home in a totally new land. And, Oh Yeah, all this was revealed by an Angel. Yeah, that’s not odd at all. I just can’t help, as I imagine her receiving visits from Magi and gifts of gold and myrrh, and as poor shepherds came in from the fields to lay eyes on her baby son, to think that she must have had one of those “I can’t believe this is my life!” moments. The truth is, people must have thought that she was crazy. They must have doubted the explanation for her unexpected pregnancy. ( I know. I tried to tell my parents that Stephen was an Immaculate Conception. But they didn’t believe me either.) And the people must have wondered about Joseph, too. I mean, what kind of guy takes on the small town floozy for a wife? The truth is it’s weird. The whole thing is just not normal. Ya know? I can imagine the way they were stared at as they left town to head to Bethlehem. “There goes poor Joseph and his crazy-religious-fanatic-tramp for a wife.”
Nothing was normal or easy for them. Giving birth in a stable is not cool. But in the end, Mary was a new Mom like any other. She took it all in, and held on to it to think over again and again. Every mother on the face of the planet can relate to this. And I’ve always identified with this verse because of that. But this year…I can ultra relate. Because now I’m the weirdo. I’m the one far from home, believing whole heartedly that I’ve been called by God. I’m the one that everybody stares at -not because I’m a knocked-up 17 year old, although I’ve been there – but because I look different and sound different and do things sooooo differently. I’m the one shaking my head and muttering in amazement “This is really my life”.
I want to be a person that thinks back from where I’m at and treasures up all these things and ponders them in my heart. I love this Christmas morning because it is just such a time. It feels so normal that it’s giving me a chance to think back on all the weirdness that we currently call life. To take it all in and appreciate it, to remember that we are so blessed to have been called into this super weird existence, and to hope that in some teeny tiny way the world will be different because we were willing to be the goofy missionaries.
Tonight, we’re going into town for a Christmas dinner of pizza. Different, I know. But this Christmas warrants exactly that kind of break from tradition. But now, I better get on with another homage to Christmas around the world – the post-presents clean up hour.