By Rebecca Greebon
The Christmas season is upon us. We are likely starting to feel bogged down as we run around, trying to summon the energy to add gift shopping, menu creating, party planning, extra church services, and seasonal decorating to our already full to-do lists.
In addition, the media is increasingly full of negative, divisive, and sensationalist stories, which can leave us with a sense of despair about our communities, our nation, and our world. It can become crushing if we let it.
We don’t have to let it.
I recently came across a photo of our daughter on the day of her preschool Christmas pageant, two years ago. She had been chosen to play Mary, and remembering that evening brought a smile to my face.
Our family took up an entire row in the beautiful little chapel filled with relatives, family friends, and everyone else who’d been roped into coming. Cameras were everywhere, waiting to capture the perfect shot. Inevitably, children cried until they ran off the stage or were led away. Performers looked anxiously around until they found their people, then stopped whatever they were supposed to be doing to wave enthusiastically or shout, “Hi, Mommy!” The sound of children singing filled the air, and the characters of the nativity entered as cued by the lines of the story. Adorable young ones trooped across the stage dressed as stars, angels, sheep, donkeys, wise men, an innkeeper, Joseph, and finally, Mary.
She was adorable, our beloved Mary, as she entered, carrying her precious cargo. Never mind that she held the doll the way you or I would carry in a load of firewood—it was darling. She walked to the center of the stage and stood by Joseph, holding the baby carefully, then placing him in the manger right on cue. If you ever need a reminder of the magic of Christmas, go watch children perform the story. There is no better cure for a worn or fretful heart.
As I stood in that chapel, these words were stamped all over mine: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).
I watched and listened to the people around me. Friends and families smiled and hugged. Babies were passed from person to person, getting kisses galore. Proud parents and grandparents took pictures and exclaimed over their tiny thespians with boundless zeal. Teachers beamed and students preened under the spotlight of accomplishment. I heard greetings and good-byes, laughter and conversation. I heard the Father’s children, gathered together in his name, acknowledging his birth and presence and gift to humanity as they enjoyed each other in his house.
I watched and listened. And it was perfect, because it was exactly the point. God sent his Son to us—through unconventional means, in the most humble beginning imaginable—so we could be saved. The story is simple, yet no less amazing because of that. The facts are easy to remember, easy to repeat, easy to teach. They are supposed to be so that anyone can learn them, even a small child. Even a rushed and frazzled adult.
But no one in that lovely chapel seemed rushed or frazzled during our time together. There was peace, not in the form of quiet, but in the absence of restlessness or confrontation. There was joy, as we laughed and loved and celebrated the birth of our Lord through the actions of our children. There was hope, as we gazed on our little stars beneath the lights of the Christmas stage and let them guide us into the spirit of the season. We were a family, if only for that moment, catching a glimpse of what the spirit of the season is supposed to feel like, what it will feel like when we celebrate with the actual guest of honor someday.
I was so grateful and humbled that night. I continue to be so as we rush headlong into the final days before Christmas. The perfect plan deserves nothing less than our best—our best according to what his plan meant.
I am convicted to celebrate the way Jesus envisioned. To stop and breathe and thank him. To remember he came and why. To love my family and my neighbor and remember he loves them as much as he loves me. To cherish togetherness and bonding and to spread his light as I run from place to place. To embody joy and pass on this message to my children in a way that is tangible and permanent.
To know the reason for the season in the way I live it is the best gift of all.
Rebecca Greebon is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and child of the One True King. She has a passion for sharing with others how amazing they are, how much they are loved, and how blessed every day is, even when we are lost or distracted or completely over ourselves and the world. Rebecca blogs at theriverchick.com.