Let’s just go ahead and say this right out loud: when you live overseas, Christmas can be really hard.
It’s hard to be away from family and friends. That’s the big one. It’s the season of Together, and you’re not.
In addition, the carols are sung to the wrong tune, spiral-sliced honey ham does not exist, and the advent candles melted into a puddle.
Our family has been reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for 14 straight years now. Wherever we’ve been–beach, mountains, home, abroad—we’ve read aloud the story of the craziest kids on earth who infiltrate the local church’s Christmas pageant and turn it on its head.
I think the reason our family loves this story so much is that it’s about outsiders, and expectations, and about how it feels to have everything be all wrong for Christmas, only to have it turn out to be all right.
Which is, when you think about it, the real story anyway: everything is so wrong, and we are in so much trouble. We can’t save ourselves, so Love is coming to do the job for us.
That’s why I think it’s okay for us to just tell the truth this holiday season.
Whatever the sadness, the failure, the disappointment, the loss: we don’t need to pretend, because Love is coming to be with us, to comfort us, to keep us all through the night.
The whole point of Christmas is this: Emmanuel. God with us.
God with us, not just with other people—the people who are poorer, needier, more messed up.
I think us do-gooder types are great minimizers of our own pain and needs.
God wants to be with us, and we’re immediately pointing out all the places where he’s more necessary than with us.
But here’s the deal.
God is with us, because he loves us with an everlasting love and our names are written in the palms of his hands. Because even if a nursing mother could forget her child, He cannot forget us.
Emmanuel–God with us–because we need him so very badly, and he loves us so very much.
And unless we allow God to be profoundly with us, we will have nothing of value to share with anyone else.
We have to fully receive before we can freely give.
And this is the gift: God with us.
For the failures, mistakes, and regrets of this past year: God with us.
For the uncertainty, anxiety, and mountains to be climbed ahead: God with us.
For the limits we will reach, and the wandering we will endure: God with us.
For the rest that we need, for the restoration that can’t come fast enough: God with us.
For the tears and the trials, for the comfort and the carrying: God with us.
This is the green pasture.
This is the cool water.
This is the rest for all of our souls: God with us.
Receive and receive and receive, my friends.
There is no limit. There is no end.
There is this fountain, always enough: God with us.
Three simple steps toward receiving
- Take time: 20 minutes per day to journal
- Identify the need: name emotions (sad, mad, scared, glad), events, worries, etc.
- Invite God in: ask for healing, comfort, strength, wisdom, provision, change, redemption
Journaling doesn’t have to be well-thought-out paragraphs. It can be just words, ideas, phrases—whatever comes to mind. Check out prayingincolor.com for ideas.
What’s the truth for you this holiday season?
What are the real emotions, the deep needs, the heart-felt longings?
Where do you need Emmanuel more than ever before?
What stops you from receiving what you need?