For Unto Us A Child Is Born

The Christmas Story became earthly-real to me the year I gave birth to my first child, a son. By Christmas he was only two months old and neither of us knew what we were doing yet. But I understood what it is to grow a child in your own body, and how you know him after nine months in a way without words, and how your life is intertwined with his in ways you barely understand yet.

I thought about Mary traveling in her ninth month, knew the heaviness of her body and the discomforts of her burden, but any mother would bear those willingly for the sake of the little one to come. The delivery of a child in the stable became startling fact, and the making do with little in the cold rough night felt the ache of a mother’s heart to provide for her child. Was she hungry? Was she tired? Did she wonder if she would survive the delivery, alone in a cave? Shepherds, animals, straw, the night-time pastures, the crowded streets of the rural village– all lifted right out of the gilt-edged storybook and into this created world of dirt where it could be touched and smelled and remembered by a mother’s heart.

And in the night, when I was awakened yet again by the cries of a newborn, in the dim light of the nursery we would rock, and I would look at the tiny face and think of the Savior who came like this: so small and weakly dependent on someone to care for every need, to love Him. And I understood how Mary’s heart poured out to her baby as only a mother’s can, and how those tiny fingers entwined with hers day after day. A child, innocent and dependent, who would carry His mother’s heart and her sin to the cross someday– something no mother should have to face, and yet earthly grim and unflinchingly real. A Child dependent but so desperately needed here: innocence in exchange for our guilt, grace poured out from heaven for our wrenching pain and chaos. As the prophet foretold hundreds of years before, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful…Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

This is the miracle of Christmas, new again every year in its mystery and wonder, that God came down a Child. That the Eternal entered into the flow of time to be with us from the beginning of life to the end. That the omnipotent God became a fragile and needy newborn. How can a mother’s heart help but worship at Christmas-time, when she sees her own children and thinks of the Christ-child? How can a mother’s heart help but make sure there is room for Him in her home, and call her own children around the manger to see the Child that is born for us?


“The God who needs nothing, came needy. The God who came to give us mercy, was at our mercy. And He who entered into our world, He lets us say it in a thousand ways– that there is no room at the inn.” Ann VosKamp


“Who, oh Lord, could save themselves,
Their own soul could heal?
Our shame was deeper than the sea;
Your grace is deeper still.

You alone can rescue, You alone can save,
You alone can lift us from the grave;
You came down to find us, led us out of death–
To You alone belongs the highest praise.” Matt Redman

The Light of the World

It was just another kids’ Christmas program with barely-audible childish voices tumbling over rehearsed lines, and last-minute melt-downs among the nativity figures in the back, when they caught a glimpse of the crowded auditorium.  A stray baby in a stiff red dress escaped from the manger scene and toddled around in the aisle beneath the fond gaze of the audience.  And when the music played, enthusiastic little voices joined in the song, not always with the correct words or notes, but with the appropriate amount of gusto to please the director and delight the assembled parents, friends, and grandparents.

Just another adorable Christmas program until the very end, when a clump of children lined up at the mic, and the littlest one stepped out in her red-knit hat with the flower on it, and piped up in her tiny voice: “We praise You, Jesus, for being a light in this dark world.” As clear and perfectly enunciated as that truth could possibly be, and suddenly it was worship. Hearts hushed as rosy cheeked innocence announced that Christ was come to shine in our darkness, the darkness that has overtaken those grieving families this week before Christmas, the confusion and fear of every parent’s nightmares that rise up in the dark when least expected. The auditorium stilled and the little voice rang out like a bell, and spirits lifted in prayer, knowing how desperately our world needs the light of a Savior. We praise You, Jesus– “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.”

In the face of tragedy and war and abuse and violence that affects the littlest and most innocent ones, we celebrate the birth of a Baby who is named Prince of Peace. Amid a society so carefully made independent of age-old beliefs, we declare the Advent of Emmanuel, God with us. “Come and behold Him, born the king of angels…Oh, come, let us adore Him.”

And when we hold our candles on Christmas Eve, passing the light from the Christ-candle throughout the darkened auditorium, till it glows with hundreds of tiny lights, our hearts will weep and rejoice together: “We praise You, Jesus, for being a light in this dark world.” Not just at Christmas-time, but forever and ever. “Highest, most holy, light of light eternal, born of a virgin, a mortal he comes…O come all ye faithful…let us adore Him.”


“Lord God, as Your plan of salvation unfolds before me this Advent, may I be still and silent before the miracle of the Christ Child. Amen” (Branches of the Tree, Jeff Stone)

“…how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding….those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:27-28,31)

What We Need This Christmas

Bits of thought have been muddling around in my head for a couple weeks now; it wasn’t till after I had eaten two pieces of chocolate cake with my fingers, mid-day, and announced that I couldn’t wait any longer to get the live Christmas tree for the family room, that the restless push started shaping into words. I need Christmas, and I need it to be wonderful– that’s the bare bones of the thing.

See, I love everything about Christmas and I always have this feeling that there is so much celebrating to do in a month that it will never fit. I don’t want to miss any part of this magical holiday because it won’t be back for another whole year. This year especially it feels important to get it all in, because our family is changing shape and we are letting go of familiar traditions, and the whole Christmas season is rocking on its pedestal.

 Beauty….. Joy….. Meaning…..Miracle….. Wonder….. Peace.

That is Christmas in a nutshell and one of the few times and places on Earth that they all come together for more than a few moments. No wonder we all want to capture it, hold onto it, get as much of it as we can. After another year of pushing on and persevering in this Faith-journey, with death and disease and financial need in the world right down the street, the heart needs a month to contemplate the beauty of Christmas, revel in the sights and sounds of this holiday, hear echoes of the angels’ song: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” It is a grander story than we could have imagined ourselves, that God would come to dwell in the skin of what He made; that God Himself would come down to bind up our brokenness, declare hope to the whole world.

At Christmas we get a glimpse of glory, get to remember the miracle-story and anticipate all over again– “unto us a Child is born!” We get to look beyond the everyday into the extraordinary and celebrate. “We are no longer lost; He has come down for us. We have a Savior…we have a Savior!”  At Christmas-time it is all on display, and everyone joins in the party whether or not they understand why.

But like many good things the harder we try to grasp it, the more elusive it becomes, and our very striving gets in the way of the experience.  I need to slow down enough to enjoy the holiday festivities. Look at people instead of projects. Keep the food and decorations simple enough that they remain fun and don’t become an overload of stress. Wonderful can turn into overwhelming in the space of a few hours, if I am not mindful.

The best part of it is that I could Keep It Simple and know that I am not missing out on anything, because Christmas is here to stay, a year-round truth not dependent on the accessories of the season. Maybe different this year, but never ruined, as long as we remember the reason for the party. “His love will reign forever…We have a Savior.”


“A child has been given,
King of our freedom;
Sing for the Light has come–
This is Christmas.” (We Have A Savior, Hillsong)

Waiting for Christmas

We didn’t celebrate advent when I was growing up, didn’t know anything about that centuries-old tradition, and when I became a mother and heard other mothers talking about making an advent wreath it seemed like just one more thing to do in a busy season. Later when we started celebrating Advent as a church it was a way to unify the church family’s celebration, focus on the meaning of Christmas and spread out our joy over a whole month.

But somewhere along the way the meaning of the word seeped into my heart and became a lifeline in that mad push to make Christmas picture-perfect (because it only comes once a year and somehow it matters so very much), a still whisper running beneath the season: coming. All the decorating and the baking and the bright wrappings and the music are only preparation for that one special day, and when it comes it might even seem a disappointment, unless you are looking for the right thing….prepared for what is coming…waiting with all the world for a Savior…He’s coming.

Advent is really just a way to make visible the words of the prophets, the collective longings of people in darkness, the long centuries rolling on, the hopes and cries of the suffering. We light the candles and see it..He’s coming…the Christ-child is coming to set everything right in the world…and the flame is burning brightly and nothing is impossible any more because God is with us.

So we light this first candle and our hearts quiet to listen for His voice: “A voice cries ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low…and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'” (Isaiah 40:1,4-5) And we count the days, pull out the boxes of decorations, trim the tree and the windows, deck the halls of our homes with hope; we rejoice in this month of preparation as we wait for Christmas, that one special day when we stop the world to remember His first coming and wait for His second coming. When the presents and trimmings are gone the promise of this day will remain…“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:8)  He is coming!


“A child has been given,
King of our freedom,
Sing for the light has come:
This is Christmas…”  (Hillsong)