Today is the third day of Christmas, the third of twelve days in which Christians worldwide celebrate the feast of the Incarnation.
Today in particular, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and the Gospel reading tells us about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
As I sat in church today and listened to the Scripture, I was taken aback.
We are celebrating the Holy Family with a story about how Mary and Joseph lost Jesus?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to tell some other story? Maybe another look at the scene of the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, surrounded by his adoring mother and father? Messy, yes. But cleaning up a messy child is much easier than finding a lost one.
But this is what the lives of the saints are about–how God reaches into our daily lives, when we are desperate for him,to help us in the time of our greatest need.
Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that God preserved Mary from sin from the moment of her conception so she could choose God’s will without the hindrance of sin and give the most beautiful ‘yes’ to God when Gabriel brings her the offer of an unplanned and amazing pregnancy to bear the Son of God. The grace of Jesus on the cross reached back through time to save her, to prepare her to be the ark of God’s new covenant, Jesus the Christ.
Maybe that’s too farfetched for you to accept, and that is okay. But when I think of the Gospel account on this feast day, I can’t help but rejoice…
Mary, the mother of God, LOST HER SON on vacation (okay, on a religious pilgrimage, but still).
Through no fault of her own.
It wasn’t her own personal failings that caused something bad to happen.
It wasn’t her lack of attention because of selfishness.
And we can’t blame it on her kid, because we know for sure he was blameless in the whole ordeal.
Now before you blame it on Joseph, just think about this. I think this story on this day tells us that sometimes parenting fails happen when nobody is to blame.
The perfect Son and his mother face an incredibly difficult situation, not because someone did something wrong, but because life is hard and raising kids is really really hard.
So next time you feel like you’re a horrible parent because x, y, and z have happened to you and your kids, remember this: parenting is hard.
I love this reading on this day because it comforts me. Yes, my sin gets in the way of parenting well. I am selfish. I am unkind at times. I am rude and lash out at my kids. But I am seeking the Lord’s help in this.
God knows how hard raising children is. His own Son was lost for a few days and the family He entrusted His most precious One to was frantic to find him.
Don’t be afraid. You’re not screwing this up irreparably.
Lean into Him when it’s hard. Take guidance from the other New Testament reading for the day, Colossians 3. It’s a guide for family life.
In the midst of all the crying and yelling, dress yourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
In the evenings when they’re fussy, bear with one another, and forgive one another because God has forgiven you.
On the messy days, most importantly, put on love.It’s the bond of perfection, completion.
When your kid gets lost and you don’t know how it happened or exactly what to do, let the peace of Christ control your hearts, and be thankful.
On the hard days, let God’s word fill you up, and seek his wisdom.
In the parent fails, sing songs to God, with gratitude.
And every day with kids, whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Merry Christmas, y’all. 9 more days to go.
Christmas is so much more than Jesus’s birthday.
I will probably regret writing this vulnerable post, not because of what I say, but because I’m afraid some of my friends will miss the point and try to get me interested in their weight-loss products.
This is not a post about losing weight.
It’s not a post about wishing things were different.
It’s a post about my desperate need for the Incarnation of Jesus Christ to be a real and pertinent thing in my life.
My daughter just turned 8 weeks old yesterday. I haven’t been able to post much in the last two months because we are getting used to our new normal, life with three children three and under. It has been crazy, with ups and downs, but I am loving it. The big kids are in love with their little sister, and Zachary and I take so much joy in being a family of five, even though we are sleep-deprived for the time being.
I caught my reflection the other day in the automatic sliding door at Walmart, and I did not like what I saw.
I don’t keep a lot of mirrors in my house. In fact, there are only 4–one in each of the two bathrooms (so, only waist-up), one on top of a dresser that is too tall for me to look into (for the tall hubs), and one full-length on the inside of our closet door.
I saw my reflection, really, for the first time since giving birth. I might try to soften the phrase “I did not like what I saw” to “I wasn’t thrilled with my appearance,” but it would not do justice to the feelings I have experienced since then. I was embarrassed.
I know that this may be hard to believe, but I have never hated one aspect of my body. I have always felt generally overweight and been frustrated at the inability to purchase flattering outfits without breaking the bank. But I have never stood in front of my reflection and felt how I have in the past several days.
This belly. This I-make-jeans-unflattering belly. This I-have-carried-three-big-children belly. This I-have-eaten-my-feelings-for-years belly.
I have been self-conscious of it for the past five or six days in a way that I have never experienced before.
I had started formulating all sorts of plans to minimize its appearance–from only wearing dresses (pants seem to emphasize it) to working out and actually losing the extra weight I’m carrying around. But last night I faced the reality that my body isn’t ever going to look the same as it did before I had children.
I have read the inspirational memes about stretch marks being tiger stripes earned through childbearing. I have seen the encouragement to moms to love their bodies post-pregnancy because sagging skin and lack of toning can indicate the joys of bearing a lot of kids.
But last night, I faced the reality that my body isn’t ever going to look the same as it did before I had children. And I cried.
There are so many feelings wrapped up in this realization, this acceptance of reality. I want to look cute and trendy. I want to be able to wear flattering clothes more easily. I want to lose weight and feel better. I really want to feel attractive and be attractive, especially for my husband (who is totally supportive and encouraging on this journey, by the way).
All of these desires are important, some moreso than others. But never before have I felt such a need for Jesus.
It’s interesting that these feelings and realizations come in this holiday season. In a few short days, Christians will celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a big deal.
I remember being ten or eleven and baking a cake with my younger sister in late December. We put candles on the cake and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. I remember feeling justified in our celebration–I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate the birthday of a person you love?
It took me many years to understand why, and I am still unwrapping it, but I have learned this important fact:
Christmas is so much more than Jesus’s birthday.
We can argue over whether or not Jesus was actually born on December 25 (note: he probably wasn’t). We can argue over whether the roots of Christmas are actually Christian. What we can’t argue, though, is the meaning of Christmas.
It’s not just that God’s son would be born to a virgin, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger.
It’s not just that he would be worshiped by the poor and the rich together, the shepherds and the wise men.
It’s not even just that His son would grow up to die on the cross and save us.
Yes, all these things are important. But the most important thing to wrap my mind and my heart around this season is this:
We are celebrating the Feast of the Incarnation.
In the Christian calendar, followed by Christians of many ilks and persuasions, the Feast of the Incarnation is the biggest feast of the year. It’s a twelve day celebration that starts on Christmas day and last for TWELVE. STINKIN. DAYS.
In-carn-ation. God wraps himself in flesh. Forever.
The second person of the holy Trinity unites himself to us in a way that blows my mind every time I pause to think about it–HE IS A HUMAN. The body I bear indeed is created in his image, but more there is more to it than that: Jesus is my brother of flesh. We don’t just share a spiritual heritage; we are both children of Adam.
As I sit here and type, I feel my flesh all too much. My belly rests on my thighs, stretch out from bearing babies and eating my feelings for many many years.
And yet (rather counterintuitively, given my weight and food issues), Jesus invites me into a feast. A TWELVE DAY feast. At the time when I want to run away and hide and never face the decision of what to eat or how much…He invites me to his feast. The feast that celebrates when he became a human.
He knows the weakness of my human body. He has known it himself. And he still invites me to feast.
Because he is a man of flesh and blood, I can breathe deeply and let his holy Spirit change my mind. Because he has bound himself to humankind through muscle and bone, blood and raw matter, I can trust him to know what I am feeling. No, he has never borne a baby in his body, but he has lived a whole life, beaten and wounded by those of us living in this physical world. And yet, instead of admonishing me to watch what I eat over the next two weeks, he still invites me to feast.
I am overwhelmed by his kindness, and yet I am still afraid of the aftermath.
So I ask him to let his perfect love drive away this immobilizing fear of screwing up this body and being rejected and alone.
So I ask him, in these last two days of Advent, this time of preparing him room in my heart and in my earthly life, to please come, Lord Jesus.
So I ask him to teach me, in the way that only he can, how to truly feast.
It’s a risky and a dangerous place to be. But I can trust him, because he is fully God and fully Man, and that is what this season is all about.