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.