Ahh, Christmas Eve. We made it. :)
Supper tonight was as crazy as you would imagine with two babies and two toddlers and two kindergarteners, all buzzing from a play date with their best friends, from Christmas baking, from the sight of half-hidden presents waiting. Rob and Angele made a delectable ham with whipped mustard cream, and with it we had tabbouleh and rice. I think I could happily live on tabbouleh and roasted ham! It was such a nice meal, as far as food goes ...
but as for enjoying it? Well ... it was a doozy.
Vava, who had fallen asleep in the playdate chaos, was whiny and tearful and had to be coached and helped to each bite. Tyler and Kachi couldn't sit still - couldn't even stand still, and jumped down from their chairs over and over again. Grant was happy as long as he was held, and Sam, seeing Vava and Grant on laps, wanted to sit on a lap as well. It was more than a bit of pandemonium. Any notions of a merry Christmas dinner were well and truly dashed.
We gave up on our hopes of making it to the evening service at church.
And after the kids were tucked in bed, Patrick and I began to tackle the kitchen clean-up.
"How are you doing?" he asked, "I'm sorry we didn't get to spend Christmas Eve at church."
I think - I don't know, but I think - Joseph might have said something similar to Mary. Something acknowledging that this didn't seem like the best way to bring God's Son into the world. "I'm sorry we weren't at home for his birth," or "I wish you could have had more sleep after our weary journey," or maybe "I'm sorry I couldn't even find us a room in Bethlehem."
I think the very first Christmas Eve could have looked an awful lot like disappointment and loneliness.
Could have, except ...
He had come.
God's great gift, precious and perfect and the answer a million prayers, at last. Here. God with us. He shall save His people from their sins. The answer to the hopes and fears of all the years ...
And He was here!
So what matter a manger? A golden cradle would have been no closer to matching His glory. Would Mary fuss about losing sleep, when she was awake to bring the very Son of God into the world? Their bodies could have enjoyed softer circumstances but their hearts must have burst from the joy and relief and weight of this unspeakable gift.
That first Christmas might have looked like disappointment, perhaps, but only on the outside. Only to the briefest of glances.
God still sends His gifts to us in disguise.
I think normally I would have sighed a little bit and told Patrick I was sad that my plans had gone awry. But Christmas grace fell on me light and beautiful as snow, and suddenly I could see all that we got to do. Not what we didn't get to. What we did.
We sat at the table with family. Family, right here in Thunder Bay!
We had more than enough food, more than enough to drink.
We sat in our warm house in our warm clothes with our children in our arms.
We spilled fresh water when carrying glasses to the table, and didn't bat an eye to worry because it pours from our taps in abundance.
Neighbours and friends brought treats and gifts to our door.
Every one of these things, sheer gift from God's hands.
And before we fall asleep tonight, we get to close our eyes and lift our hearts and thank Him - that baby, who was born so long ago. That best gift, Jesus, who came to our disappointment and pandemonium and stretched out His arms to love us right where we are. Mary's comfort and joy is our comfort and joy: Jesus. He came to us. God with us.
When Christmas is looking a little ragged, I pray He grants us grace to look at the glorious gifts He has given. I pray He gives His peace to our hearts when children are crying and jumping off their chairs and running around. I pray He turns our attention to His great gift as we open our small gifts.
And may our hearts be full with the glory of God with us.
Merriest of Christmases, friends!