I'm in the kitchen washing dishes, still in my pjs and badly in need of a shower. It's almost five and we have many people arriving in just over an hour for our annual outdoor nativity walk. The kids are upstairs getting dressed and next on my list is to microwave them some leftovers so I can shower while they eat. We still need to make a fire, put candles in jars, get the music ready to play in the gazebo for the angels, wash the floor, make some drinks and plate the snacks. Aaron has been on his work phone in the garage and my suspicion is right. He has to go back to the office. He gives me a kiss and an apology, I nuke some empanadas and dash up the stairs for a very quick shower, hoping he will be home before people arrive.
We get almost everything done. Aaron gets home and lights the fire, puts out a few candles in mason jars (not as many as I hoped) and dresses the kids in all their winter gear. The snacks are ready, I do a so-so job of moping the floor. I start to wonder if this is worth it and why, oh why do I always leave so many things until the last day.
In the last ten minutes before everyone arrives, I am looking for something to read between the stations. I open our much loved Jesus storybook bible.
'And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world his wonderful gift. The baby that would change the world was born. His baby son. Mary and Joseph wrapped him up to keep him warm. They made a soft bed of straw and used the animals' feeding trough as his cradle. And they gazed in wonder at God's Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Mary and Joseph named him Jesus, "Emmanuel" - which means "God has come to live with us." Because of course he had.' (Jesus storybook bible pg. 182.)
That's it, right then and there: I am broken and healed in just a few lines. The very miracle of God come down to earth has once again slayed me. The magic, the mysticism, the wonder. It's too much and I am filled to overflowing. I finish my readings, put on my own winter gear and head outside as the first vehicle pulls up (thankfully five minutes late.)
Nothing is perfect. There aren't quiet wonderings as we listen to families explore the wise men, or shepherds. It's hard for me to hear and any wish for the peace and tranquility of a monastic type celebration is farfetched. We have dozen's of kids between everyone's families and they are wrestling in the snow, excitedly talking to their own dear friends. Little ones are complaining of cold, because it is -25. I forget to play the music for the heavenly host, but still there are fireworks and I take a few minutes to reflect on the sheer astonishment of it all while they go off in the sky.
We finish with baby Jesus around the fire. All my beloved's faces are glowing in the flames and I think, this is it. Here it is. The perfection of God. Worship doesn't have to be a silent, inward, meditative practice. God came down to us, in a noisy, imperfect, smelly world. A world filled with people he loves. His beloveds. He meets us where we are at. When the angels scared the shepherds into cowering lumps, it was not to hurt them but to bring 'happy news for everyone, everywhere.'
Everyone heads inside. On a nicer night there would be marshmallows or sledding, but tonight it is just too cold. I'm happy inside, this introvert with a houseful. A friend brought a cracker and cheese Christmas tree from pinterest and it makes me love her more. The hot chocolate got a little burnt while we were outside and we are eating off paper plates. All the kids and mammas are jockeying to hold the newly born twins whose adorable presence leaves you wanting more. Some friends believe in Jesus, some don't. Some are from my church, some aren't. I am happy because I love each and every one and this here, right here and right now, is the kingdom, everyone all different, believing different things, yet still gathered together, eating and playing, growing in love.
It feels just like God wants it, having this mishmash of friends all under our roof, nothing quiet, nothing magazine worthy, everyone with their own faults and struggles and family troubles heading into Christmas. It feels real and it feels like the grace of God. He came in such an ordinary way - to a noisy barn, to poor teen parents, visited first by lowly shepherds. Nothing magazine worthy at all.
Yet the inconceivable beauty of it leaves me breathless.
Merry Christmas friends. Wishing you and yours the beauty and grace of Jesus come to earth in the midst of imperfection.