Over the years, Christmas and the season leading up to it, have held many meanings for me. When I was young, I loved it simply because it meant beauty and snow and family and presents. I always knew we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas but it wasn’t my main focus. When I grew older and had small children? It was a time of unintentional chaos. Gone was my ability to see much beauty or feel any peace. Making sure that my three sugar plums had a magical Christmas made me too plum tired to feel anything at all. Finding all the right presents, doing all the right traditions, making sure we saw all the branches of the family tree, making my decorations perfectly perfect, and oh yes, see that baby in a manger over there kids? That’s Jesus! Let’s wave as we pass by!
A couple years later found me wiped clean. After suffering a year of hardship that seems unreal to this day, it was fitting that it all came to a close in late November. When I got through that time and could finally blink my eyes into focus at the world around me, it had turned grey and cold. Barren. And in that barrenness, I found strange comfort. Maybe God, knowing my artistic and sometimes fanciful dramatic ways, knew that I would find beauty and peace in seeing what I felt on the inside, being reflected back at me in the physical world. A heavenly reset to help me focus on Christ with a quiet mind and open heart. The definition of barren varies. As an adjective it means bleak, lifeless, cannot bear fruit. As a noun it can mean dangerous land. The season leading up to Christmas, at least here where I live, can certainly be described as barren. The leaves are gone. The fields are cut down. It is bitter cold. Nothing grows. And yet, I have found it the perfect season to prepare my heart to celebrate the birth of Christ. Before Christ, was it not dangerous land? Before Christ, wasn’t life, less? Without Christ, my view is bleak. I can’t grow, or maybe the correct word is won’t, without Jesus bursting my seams to make me something greater for Him. When I see the world around me bleak and grey and cold, now, it’s a stark reminder of a dangerous land that a scared young mother traveled as she made her way to a tiny stable to bring Light into a lifeless world. These last few years, I have learned a new peace, as I feel the chill around me and look at grey sunless skies. And with this barren time, comes the sweetest promise of love for life. Emmanuel, God with us.
~For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:11-14