Last year for Christmas, I woke up early and drove down to Newport beach. I sat on the sand by the pier with my Bible, journal, and a Christmas devotional book by Ann Voskamp. I thought about how grateful I was that Jesus came to earth, and about just how different my life was because Christ was a part of it.
From that spot in the sand, watching a few ambitions Christmas morning surfers and the slow steady crashing of the waves, time slowed down and I had a moment to soak in what felt like a real Christmas moment.
It wasn’t about presents, decorations, parties, or Christmas cookies.
It was a moment of peace, and a moment of knowing that Jesus had come to earth and was making all things new.
It was a moment where the holiness of God trumped all the hard circumstances in my life, and for a few moments I found that I could let go of all my questions and unmet expectations and trust that God really was on the throne and He really was good.
This year, I’m working at 4 Christmas Eve services, going home, packing, and waking up early to catch a flight home to Oregon. I’m looking forward to seeing nieces and nephews open their presents, meeting my brand new nephew Bradley, hugging my parents and siblings, and getting to be all together as a family. And yet in the midst of travel, presents, and the Christmas goodies my mom and sister are known for, I don’t want to lose sight of that moment at the beach last year.
This last year has been crazy and chaotic, and the peace of Christmas is something I’m in serious need of right now. Since last Christmas, I’ve gone through a tumultuous year of changing jobs and churches, and moving and adjusting to living with new roommates. I’ve seen a best friend get married and two other best friends get engaged (along with countless other friends getting engaged, married, pregnant, etc.), while I’ve experienced a string of dating disappointments and heartache. I travelled to Thailand and Cambodia and had my eyes opened to the brutal reality of the sex trafficking industry. It feels like I’ve been in a constant state of transition, and God continues to break down everything comfortable in my life.
And yet, in the midst of all of the hard and all of the change, I know that God is up to something good.
At Christmas, we celebrate that Jesus came to earth in human flesh. We celebrate that our God is near to us, that He too has walked this earth and shared in our experience of what it is to be human. We celebrate that Jesus has shown us more of what God is like, and that He is loving and kind and full of grace. And we also remember and celebrate that with Jesus coming to earth, God is breaking into our story so that He can make all things new and bring about redemption and reconciliation on earth.
It is a time to remember that Jesus has come not just into our world, but also into our lives. And just as Jesus coming to earth is all about how God is doing something REALLY BIG to make all things new on earth as they are in heaven, God wants to do the exact same REALLY BIG thing in each of our individual lives to make all things new in our hearts just as they are in heaven.
I can look back at this last year of my life and see the hard, and the growing pains, and the ways I’ve had to die to my old ways of living, and die to my old hopes and dreams. I can see the brokenness and the disappointment and the moments of loneliness and confusion.
Or I can look back at this last year of my life and see that God was with me in every single one of those moments, and that for every time my heart was broken, God healed it and made it a little bit more like His heart. He made me a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more understanding of the hard things others are going through, a little bit more trusting, and a little bit more brave.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
At Christmas, we remember that God is with us. He wants to make a home in our hearts, and sometimes it’s going to get harder before it gets better. But through it all, we have the promise that God is with us. That Jesus has come so that we can be reconciled to God and that every hard thing we’ve gone through is being redeemed and used by God to build His kingdom here on earth, and also in our hearts.
And so this Christmas, I look back at a hard last year, and forward to year full of unknown, and yet I say,
Jesus, I’m so glad that you came.