I have been thinking a lot about Christmas over the last few weeks. Thinking about the intense pressure to give, the churches that are too busy, the Christmas guilt-trip we get every year for either buying into the commercialism or not remembering the true spirit of Christmas.
I’m actually kinda sick about it all.
I spend enough time online to be inundated every day this month with at least ten well-meaning Christmas posts. And I hope you will all forgive me, but I’m tuning you out. Because if there is one season out of the year in which shame should be completely displaced, it is this one. If there is one season out of the year that I am going to live and believe in God as a little child does, it is Christmas.
And do you know what I have come to?
Christmas is about Jesus becoming a human being, about Him getting to breathe, in and out, like we do. The whole thing is so simple, a child can understand it.
Over the last year or so, I have slowly been working my way through L.L. Barkat’s God in the Yard, looking for a photo for each chapter. I have been taking very small bites of this treasure of a book, and I have only just finished Chapter 11 – Submission. I told L.L. when I was at Laity that I had been putting that one off. She told me I should read it. That she did something different with submission.
She started the chapter with an image I couldn’t shake. “On cold days, I see steam from my teacup. It is a scarf held by an invisible hand. Vapor undulates, as if some Bolero song teases it onward, upward.” I thought I would put a teacup in the morning light, take my picture there, catch the steam moving in fluid submission to the movement of the air.
But this morning I saw my own breath swirl in the air, and it caught on tears in my throat as I realized that the very word God gave me to live this year, “breathe,” was itself a submission.
With this command, this word, He gave me permission to be alive. When Christ came, He was alive, more alive than any of us. His resurrection brought me alive in Him, every bit as human, every bit as free as He was to approach God.
As I watched my breath undulate on December air that is finally cold enough to convince me it’s December, I half-laughed, half-cried at my own existence, at His existence and His intimate way of dwelling with me. My very breath is a submission. My life lived with Him in it is a submission.
And oh how free a submission it is!
My soul suspended between dust and heaven, sustained by His hand and the strength of His heart – I don’t even know it sometimes. When I get caught up in my duty and my religious obligation, I forget how to be childlike. My every breath becomes labored and God becomes a concept I must grasp – instead of a Person who IS.
This year, I’ve taken a different approach to Christmas than I have since I was probably Piper’s age. I’ve listened to my kids. I’ve really SEEN the Christmas lights, even squinted up my eyes to make them all crazy and bokeh-ey. I’ve taken advantage of cuddle time under warm blankets. I have fallen in love with winter colors and actually photographed my Christmas.
I have been me in every day, whatever I looked like, just as I’ve tried to do every day this year. And God has been Him. And we’ve kinda just been hanging out, moving together, mysterious like breath on air.
It’s a kid thing and a grown-up thing, innocence and intimacy tangled, like watching snow fall.
11. “The woods are full of webs.”
10. Breaking the Silence
9. “invitation to go nowhere”
8. God is present in my dark
7. see? this is who i am.
6. remember how / the birds were eaten / by the sky
5. the weeping: freeze-frame celebration
4. “how grace used to drift in with the night”
3. quiet spaces
2. “playing toward God”
1. “find / the moon”
P.S. I am SO going to have to learn how to make GIF files in 2012… That snow isn’t mine, but I totally believe it could happen! ;-)