I told Peter at the beginning of the month that I didn’t want to get stressed Christmas shopping this year - and then I went ahead and did it anyway. The ever-so-slightly misaligned understanding of what constitutes an appropriate gift for a loved one is, of course, a great way to spark heated conversation on a chilly day. Then there’s the endless scroll down the smartphone screen while bouncing a baby on one hip and fending the other two off with snacks: ‘If I just found the right deal, I could get everyone I love everything they want, within the budget! Just one more scroll down. Oo, does that come in a different colour? Let’s just add the word ‘pink’ to the search bar, it’s the only loving thing to do.’ It all makes perfect sense when Amazon is mesmerizing me with its winsome little arrow-smile or I’m following the pot of gold at the end of the rainbowy Ebay logo. It’s only when I’m tossing and turning at two in the morning wondering whether I should have gotten the Usborne Nativity Sticker Book or that other one with Even More Stickers that reality kicks in. Yup, Christmas is making me a little bit crazy.
*…the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word… * (Mark 4:19)
What is it about wealth that’s so deceitful? Maybe it’s the illusion of endless possibility. We watched a documentary recently featuring the man who invented the feature of the ‘endless scroll’ on smartphones - he admitted in a moment of surprising self-awareness, ‘I know I am in some part responsible for thousands of hours of wasted time!’ It seems like the gospel flashing on that brightly-lit screen is ‘Nothing will be impossible with money’.
But my Bible tells me a different story.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:34, 37)
Here is wonder, the magic my heart longs for. Here is love vast as the ocean, loving-kindness as a flood. Here is the place where nothing is impossible: in the presence of a God who is not just powerful enough to bend the laws of nature, but humble enough to submit Himself to them, to be involved in the gorily undignified process of childbirth and the undeniably uncomfortable state of being human. Here is the rest I long for, on the grass under the stars with the shepherds, as the constant chatter of information/exhaustion/condemnation that wearies my soul is drowned out by angel voices.
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV)
Here is a gift tied with a scarlet ribbon: goodwill from God Himself. Simplicity and quietness, restored and sincere relationships, boundaries within which we are safe, enough love for not just family but the stranger, not just the stranger but even our enemies.
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother, Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace*
With him nothing will be impossible, even inner peace at Christmastime.
Beloved ones, have yourselves a restful little Christmas. Yes indeed, God rest ye, merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay!
With love, gratitude and goodwill from us. God bless you.