“Did not a great grey servant
Of all my sires and me,
Build this pavilion of the pines,
And herd the fowls and fill the vines,
And labour and pass and leave no signs
Save mercy and mystery?”
–G.K. Chesterton, from the Ballad of the White Horse, Book IV
The holiday weeks are often heralded as the most wonderful time of the year; God knows we also W O R K to make it that way. Unspoken pressures and unrealistic expectations—whether from others outside or inside ourselves—can back us into a corner and leave us, if not defeated, a little discouraged. When it comes to our energy and activities, especially for children, we want the mystery and magic to last as long as possible.
Whether you’re a grandparent, auntie or uncle, mom or dad, everyone does their best to manage this tricky equation: There’s the balance of dealing with the pressure to provide nonstop happiness with that elusive, endless magic we’re sure is just around the corner. Add in the knowledge that there is the something else at the heart of Christmas—remembering the birth of Jesus–and it is a l o t to juggle. Most often though, all that fun, excitement and magic-making leaves us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed while the joy and peace we crave are lost.
What we really want at Christmas is a way to remember what matters, and maybe a new attitude about it all. Lord knows, changing my head AND my heart is no small miracle. So, how do we manage the magic? If it doesn’t last through Christmas, how do we hold on to the wonder?
Two ways: We enter into God’s mystery by mining His word and leaning into the miracles in our own hearts.
In this season of Advent, we’re encouraged to light our wintry way with God’s Word.
Reading on the first Sunday of Advent, there’s the explosive promise of Hope in Isaiah 64 to wait for our coming Savior,
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.”
The Advent readings for the month continue.
- Second Sunday’s Prepare rings out in Isaiah 40.
- The Third Sunday’s Rejoice pours forth in Luke 1 as we read of Mary singing and rejoicing in Christ’s birth.
- And on the fourth Sunday we light the final candle to celebrate Love, God’s gift to us in the form of Jesus.
These passages contain much to meditate on; guided by the Scripture we are provided a place to pause over the mystery of God made flesh.
The reality of God’s word is as long-lasting as eternity. There is nothing temporary about it.
Another sure thing that will never fade? The personal miracles God has done in our lives. Whether it’s a change in our thinking or our attitudes, a new way of relating, a bigger heart for giving (and forgiving), those are all Godmade gifts that last when we receive His work in our hearts.
Christmastime contains the opportunity for mystery, miracles and magic.
But magic like the flicker of a firefly’s light is momentary. I want memories of a forever light that has not only come into the world, but will never fade away.
John 1:15 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and “no darkness can overcome it.”
Recounting this truth as we light our Advent candles is a way to embed the mystery deep down, hidden in our hearts where it can never be taken away.
That is the miracle of Christmas.
This post is an excerpt from my 2017 book, “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas.” You can order signed copies of LTSW for $10.00 by clicking HERE with your request & info and I’ll be in touch.