As my heart pounded, I opened an email. The normal ruckus of our three-son household roared in the background. Joy sent my emotions spiraling upward as I read some encouraging news about my current writing project. Before I could share with my husband and receive a loving hug of encouragement, our youngest shoved past my writing chair and pounded his fist on the bathroom door. Snarls of rage and pain answered back and I knew that our middle son must have been putting in his contacts at that exact moment, stabbing himself in the eye … again.
I glanced around our small home. Oldest son on his computer with his noise-cancelling headphones, impervious to anything but wild waving and a full-blown shout. Scruffy, the love of my life, working on his computer, the dog slumbering beside him. Middle son in pain and furious. Youngest son not in pain but equally furious. Lopsided Christmas decorations providing a delightful glow … but I did notice that one of my favorite ornaments, one I’d made over twenty years ago, had been broken in half but still hung on the tree in stubborn determination.
And that encouraging email still gleaming on the computer screen.
Everything in life is so smashed together and happens all at once.
Like the fury of a terrible argument with your true love during a fancy honeymoon trip. The birthday celebration where your purse is stolen, but you hold hands as you go to the bank to cancel out your checkbook and debit card. The terror and joy of holding your new baby for the first time. The baffling beauty of an unexpected answer to prayer when you are at the deathbed of a loved one. Not a life-saving miracle and yet your heart can’t deny that it was a miracle all the same.
Life is so beautiful and ugly, triumphant and horrifying, lovely and lowly and persistent. And it is all smashed up together, all at once.
But wasn’t that what Mary and Joseph lived, so long ago?
Mary was literally lauded by angels and also a frightened and unwed teen. Joseph was chosen by God and yet surely his honor was questioned in his own hometown. The shepherds saw a sky filled with a warrior choir, yet, at that time a shepherd’s testimony was not accepted in court. They think that Mary gave birth in a lambing cave. We know from scripture that it wasn’t the inn and that she lay our Lord in a manger.
The incarnation. God to Flesh, God to Meat, Immortal to Mortal, The I Am becoming one who would die … who came to die.
It’s all mixed up and smashed together. The Holy and the grubby, painful, ordinary reality. The pain of birth and the beauty of a new child. The splendor of angel choirs giving a message of redemption to men who few would believe. Glory and oppression, poverty and splendor, a lambing cave and the lamb of God held gently in the arms of a teenage girl.
And so I shouldn’t be surprised when I spot God’s Glory in the midst of all our garbage.
When I saw God miraculously answer my mom’s prayer for help that time my step-dad fell and she couldn’t lift him (a random friend suddenly knocked on the door) and yet I still watched her widowed a second time as he died of cancer.
God With Us.
It’s exactly as it sounds. I shouldn’t be surprised by that. God with the shepherds in a culture that oppressed them. God with Mary as there was no room at the inn. God with Joseph raising a little one who was not his own. God with the magi, watching the heavens for a sign. God with us … us.
I should not be surprised by the joy of that encouraging email all smashed together with a pounding fist on the bathroom door, the pain of a contact lost under an eyelid, and the infuriating powers of those ridiculous noise-cancelling headphones.
Because God is With Us.
I see Him at work all around me, even on anxious days with more weeping and dirty dishes than singing and writing triumphs. I see Him in the fact that camp is still here, after nine months without campers or income. It hurts not to have campers. It hurts so much. And yet, He is with us. I see Him in the new generator that we never thought we could afford. Yet there it stands, on a year when we should have gone under, we made a purchase that was a pure miracle.
God With Us.
Do not let your eyes miss God, because He has come to you in the middle of a mess.
The mess of Roman oppression, unplanned pregnancy, and un-trustworthy messengers shouting about visions of angels and the messiah born. The mess of cancer and covid and political unrest. The mess of everyday life with its unending supply of dirty dishes, broken ornaments, and the grumblings of three teenage boys stuffed into a two-bedroom apartment with a 113lb dog.
Look for God.
He is still with us.
Our house might be small and suffering from an abundance of dog hair, but our sons are all with us this Christmas. How many more will we have before they grow and leave and life changes once again? Sure, Scruffy is wearing those horrid noise-cancelling headphones. But once I shout a few times or wave madly to get his attention, he will still pull me into his arms for a hug or attempt to dance through the kitchen, spinning me into a counter or tripping on the dog’s water dish in the process. Yeah, our Christmas tree lilts to the side and that one ornament is broken, but it still fills the room with light and reminds me of the glorious shock of Christmas.
And that youngest son, the one pounding his fist on the bathroom door, do you know what his middle name is?
God With Us.
Do not miss God’s presence my friend. Sure, His Glory is smashed all together with a whole lot of distraction and pain, but that is because …
He is with us.