It is 1:30AM and I am wide awake. Later this evening hubby and I will gather with friends to sing songs, read scriptures, pray, and remember together an infant child born to save a lost and broken world. But this is not why sleep escapes me.
My thoughts are of you. How will you celebrate the birth of the King this year? Will the walls of your home ring with laughter and loud chatter as the family gathers round? Will your home lay quiet and simple, holding only memories because those nearest to you will be away this year? Will you gather in a hospital waiting room due to an unforeseen illness in the family? Will you kneel silently praying for a loved one serving overseas? Will you make a visit to assisted living to look into the worn eyes of the shell of someone you once knew? Will your celebration be interrupted briefly by the tears shed for a loved one who is celebrating Christmas sitting at the feet of this Savor?
I think of you and I pray. The holidays serve up a good dose of celebration and hope, with a bit of grief on the side. Grief for traditions long gone and transitions that have stepped up in their place. So, I pray.
I pray as one who understands letting go of expectations and plans in order to live fully in the mess of the moment. I pray as one who has had to surrender the Hallmark-happily-ever-after Christmas to embrace the messy unscripted painful one in front of me, only to discover that God had a bigger gift of grace to give me that surpasses the thrill of any wrapped package under my tree.
I pray for you what God prodded me to pray for myself two years ago. This festive time of year has always been my favorite time. I can’t help myself! The sights and sounds usher in feelings of hope and peace. And for a short time, all seems well.
That is until two years ago. I was so busy with all the “doing” of Christmas, wanting everything to be perfect for those I love. It was while I stood in the kitchen, prepping food for our family celebration, that I noticed a shift in my heart. I had lost my joy. The scurry of activities that once brought delight to my heart, had been reduced to another check on my list so I could rush to the next task and check another “to-do” to reflect “to-done.”
“God, what is wrong with me” became my whispered prayer. “I want to enjoy my family when they get here. Now even our celebration has become another check on the list.” I sat with my silent prayer, waiting for that still small voice. He whispered. His words of grace to me that day, are the gift I pray tonight for you and for me.
God: “Why do you strive? What is it you want? What are your expectations?”
Me: “God, I want my family to feel wrapped up in love when they arrive. I want them to feel like they can take a break from their busy lives and just for a moment breathe in peace. I want to soak in the moments with them.”
God: “Then let go. Let go of expectations and embrace the plans I have. The calm, peace, and love you seek comes not from your striving but seeking. Seeking me. So, invite me to be your guest. Ask me to come and do what only I can do. Matters of the heart are my specialty, for I alone can change a life. Invite my Spirit to come and move in your home. Then trust me.”
Me: “Ok God, I surrender. I let go of wanting everything to be perfect. I yield to whatever You want to do with our time together. I release my temporary expectations that I may embrace your eternal plan. Be our guest. Move among us. Breathe life into our dry, weary bones. Mend the broken places. Heal the sin diseased parts of us. Not my will, but yours be done. For you are a faithful father.”
And that my friends, that simple prayer of surrender and invitation changed everything, not just for my family, but for me.
This is why tonight I pray for you and I pray for me a simple Christmas prayer.
“Father, as we gather to celebrate You, may we not forget You.
You are invited to come, move among us, bring Heaven to our home.
Do Your deep eternal work in us.
We surrender our temporary pleasures to Your eternal delights.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus.
May we find joy as He presents to us grace gift upon grace gift. And as we unwrap each gift of grace, may the peace of His presence invade our hearts and our homes.
Merry Christmas to you and yours,