Each year Christmas officially begins in my house when my wife packs the fall decorations away and our house becomes a twinkling faux-snow wonderland. Each year I watch her meticulously decorate our tree with silver, glass, and lights (Not one drop of color except my Christmas Story leg lamp ornament I awkwardly sneak on when Amy is asleep). Each year I watch her tirelessly wrap every present and place them under the tree like a skilled architect. It brings her joy to carry out this ritual with hallmark movies serving as the soundtrack.
In her family, Christmas morning was organized and methodical. Presents were opened one at a time so that all could see. Paper was removed with care and folded nicely for immediate disposal.
In my family… chaos.
The contrast was stark.
In our marriage the compromise has been struck. An orderly and nicely prepared Christmas that is set upon by wildlings on Christmas morning and followed by a pleasantly ordered Christmas dinner.
The perfectly wrapped and placed presents are torn open by children who act like starving bears just awakened from their winter slumber. The clink of mimosa glasses and the smell of toasted bagels fill the air alongside the laughter and parental barks that force children to spout the briefest gratitude for their gifts. If I had to guess, my wife’s vision for Christmas morning would be more calm, more predictable, and carry fewer moments of, “What just broke?” or, “Stop hitting your brother!” No matter how much she prepares, Christmas always carries moments of shock and surprise within the laughter and joy. Great joy.
I often wonder about the contrast of God’s Christmas story. The perfect setup. The prophecies of time, location, and lineage that were required are stunning. All of history was aimed at this moment. Every ruler involved. Every city that had to be constructed. Every conquest that paved the way to Bethlehem. The lovers brought together in the line of David. So much detail and care in it all. It is astonishing.
Then, the first Christmas season came, and how chaotic it was… from a human perspective.
Think about it.
A retiree aged couple miraculously found with child who would prepare the way for the Lord. An unwed virgin pregnant with the Son of God. Traveling while pregnant with no hotel reservation. Animals surrounding the birth of their creator. Angels flying past royal courts to sing the greatest Christmas choir performance ever sung, to sheep farmers. That same group of unkempt farmhands being the first outside witnesses to God’s birth in the flesh. All this to open the gift that God had been meticulously planning and preparing for humanity since before creation. And although it sounds chaotic, THIS was God’s plan all along. Although I’m sure Mary and Joseph had questions and doubts, this was God’s plan all along.
This year I will take my Christmas prayer list and leave it in God’s seemingly chaotic hands. I have my prayers and my ideas about how my life ought to go. Just like the religious people at birth of Christ had their ideas about how God ought to do things for them. However, I’m sure my ways are tainted with comfort and order according to Ryan, and although God’s ways may seem turbulent and chaotic at times, I will try my best to press in with faith in God who orchestrated the very first, and seemingly chaotic, Christmas.
God’s ways are not my ways, or yours. His thoughts are not my thoughts. But, if I’ve learned anything in 20 years, it’s that God’s ways always gift me with greater joy and lasting pleasures in my life with Jesus. More faith in him. More worship of him. More awe of him. And less of me. That is all I want this Christmas. Not in the sanctimonious super Christian sense. Just in the middle aged perspective sense. One day, likely sooner than later, all the presents unwrapped will become professional dust collectors and garage clutter. This year my prayer is that I would embrace God’s seeming chaos with faith that he is doing immeasurably more that I could ever know or imagine for the glory of King who was born to live the life I could not live, die the death I deserved to die, and rise again giving me hope and a future.