Lights have been twinkling on both sides of my street at night.
The UPS truck has made multiple appearances each day.
The stores have been crowded, but the shelves have been picked nearly bare.
Wreaths grace every door.
Perfectly, and imperfectly, decorated trees brighten rooms in almost every home.
Presents spill out from under those trees.
Stockings, once hanging straight and picture-worthy, are now starting to twist slightly, and they are bulging in the center, and no one can use the fireplace because the stocking contents will melt.
Travelers are weary from trips, long or short, to see family.
Christmas Day is upon us.
I drink in this time of year like the holiday flavored lattes from Starbucks.
I recognize that it becomes more commercial every year...but I don't really see that.
I smile every time my eyes rest on my decorations, or those of others.
I jump up and down like a kid when snowflakes fall.
I get excited about cooking for parties.
I love seeing the presents under my tree.
I SEE Christmas present, but I also see Christmas past.
I see a weary woman traveling beside her husband.
I see the miles stretching out in front of them.
I see the urgency on their faces, and the lines of fatigue and the hollowed cheeks. I see the pain of the past year still haunting their eyes. The names they have been called. The invitations they haven't received. The struggle to make ends meet. The difficulty of sharing a life, a name, a home, without being truly intimate. The awe of watching a miracle grow inside her, and the fear that accompanies it.
Their faces may not show that they know Egypt is coming soon, or, before Egypt, a birth in a stable, or after Egypt...so much more. I may not see the memories of a star, and foreign kings bearing gifts, and angels singing in the night sky, but I see in their faces the knowledge that something is coming. Something that has already changed them forever.
They've been living lives altered completely by what hasn't even happened yet. So they KNOW that when it happens, nothing will ever be the same.
I see her hold her stomach, cradling the miracle, protecting the blessing that came with its own heart ache, the way it seems all miracles and blessings do. And when I look at her, and him, I see all that is yet to come.
Do you see what I see?
I see Some One who will quake across time and space and creation, burning up the centuries of hopelessness with His arrival.
I see love in its most helpless and most powerful form.
I see sweat, and blood, and tears, and pain.
I see laughter, and happiness, and relief, and peace.
I see a tiny little baby, a life so precarious and delicate, so dependent on the love of those around Him.
I see the Strong Mighty Yahweh, stretching out His hands as an offering for all of mankind.
I see the lowliest of workers, told by heaven's trumpeting host, to come worship Him.
I see the richest kings, bearing gifts, bowing down to a child without an earthly penny to His name.
I see what He has done. The sacrifices made, and those that will soon follow.
I see the Love that WOULD NOT sit by and suffer the absence of fellowship, but stepped into the confusing, messy, painful, lonely, anxious world and said...
"ENOUGH. I am making all things new again."
I see tiny little baby hands, and when I do, I also see the nail scars.
Christmas isn't just about His birth.
It's about everything that came before, and everything that comes after.
It's the striving, and uncertainty, and fear, and loss, and pain, and worry, and hurt, and death, and longing, and waiting...those are all there in the Christmas story, and in our story.
Do you see them? Of course you do.
Now look at them through the eyes of the Baby.
And really, truly SEE the Christmas story.
Redemption. Grace. Peace. Hope. Mercy. Love. Strength. Faithfulness. Protection. JOY.
My heart jumps every time.
Because the story of His birth is really the story of OURS.
He came to DIE.
So I could LIVE.
I look at the manger, and I see the cross.
I look into the eyes of the Son of God, and I see that He left His heavenly home...but I also see that, by leaving, He opened His home to US.
I see my sister there, rejoicing, singing, laughing, dancing, playing...I see so many faces that I love, and miss, and long to touch again.
I look at Bethlehem. But I see heaven.
And an empty grave.
And a defeated foe.
When Satan looked at the manger, he probably thought there had been a mistake. He was a bit leery, sure, but not too awfully worried. God had messed up. Satan was still on top.
And he certainly felt victorious at the cross.
And the people- the man and the woman who's faces had already shown so much confusion and hurt and worry- their faces were etched in grief, and loss and terror.
HOW COULD THIS BE? All of this, all this time, all for nothing? I wonder if they saw his tiny, perfect hands at the same time as they were gazing upon the bloody nails. Did they see the beginning at the end?
If only they had seen, and maybe they did, that the end really...was the beginning.
Jesus stretched out his hands to grasp his mother's fingers...and to grasp mine. And to make it possible that one day, oh some long-awaited day, I will clasp hands with my loved ones again.
You will have your reunions with those you love. When you see the manger, do you see their faces? I do. Every time.
The coming of the new-born King adds a thrill of hope to the lines etched in the faces of us all.
Do you see what I see?