A Bed Sheet, a Cat & Baby Jesus

A Bed Sheet, a Cat & Baby Jesus

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWhen I was younger (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit by younger I mean twelve, not four), I would stage Christmas “pageants” for my family every year after Christmas lunch. I wrangled my poor brother and sister into being my actors and since it was just the three of us and I had to do the “directing,” they each played multiple roles. Gracie would be Mary and a wise man and an angel and an animal… Taylor would be Joseph, two wise men, a shepherd… you get the idea. There were props and I even put my dad’s reading lamp to good use as a spotlight. I carefully culled my parent’s cassette collection selecting the perfect song to go with each scene. Amy Grant’s “Tender Tennessee Christmas” made it into the repertoire one year, a decision that seems perfectly prophetic now, but my very favorite song, the pinnacle of my little home-spun production, was Sandi Patty’s “O Holy Night.”

The most infamous rendition of Sandi’s “O Holy Night” featured my sister’s gray cat Stormy as the Baby Jesus. Gracie, aka Mary, held the furry Baby Jesus, the lights were dim, a single light shone down on the mother and child, er, cat, and I held my breath. It was beautiful. And then Sandi hit her final note, “Diviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!!!!!” And with that, Stormy decided she had had enough. She darted from the swaddling clothes, leaped out of the arms of the loving Mary and ran hissing out of the living room. It was Oscar-worthy for sure.

I can’t believe my poor siblings put up with this year after year, but I loved every minute of it. This morning, Lydia asked if I could help her create a manger for Baby Jesus (who looks a lot like Baby Tiana, thank you, Disney.) I laughed and almost sent my small group an email knowing they always get a good laugh when I tell them stories of my “productions.” A few minutes later armed with an old bed sheet, a Pottery Barn shower curtain and a motley crew of stuffed animals  we created our own little version of “O Holy Night.” And, as if on cue, Pandora started playing “O Holy Night.” It was the Glee version, not Sandi Patty, but pretty perfect nonetheless.

The past couple years, I’ve attempted to do the 25 Days of Christmas, and by Day 4 I’m pulling out my hair. This year I decided I wasn’t going to put that pressure on myself. Although yesterday, I tried to make these cute twig ornaments like my crafty, talented friend Kimmie did, and it was an epic hot-glue-in-my-hair-burn-my-fingers-twigs-fell-apart mess. So maybe instead of decorating sugar cookies we’ll hit up Muddy’s for a Grinch cupcake (key lime… so yum!) and instead of making adorable ornaments we’ll wear shower curtains as head dresses, but when I see Lydia’s eyes glimmer from the light of the candles on the advent wreath every night or when I walk by our nativity and see that she has moved all the animals so they are looking right over Baby Jesus, I know one thing… that feeling I had as a child when Sandi Patty hit that last note, that sense of awe and wonder at my Savior, she’s getting it. O Holy Night, indeed.

IMG_8199

IMG_8198

IMG_8184

IMG_8211

IMG_8218

Preparing

Preparing

IMG_2170I blinked and suddenly I’m wearing fuzzy boots with my fingers wrapped around a warm mug of steaming apple cider, the spicy scent of cinnamon and cloves filling my home. I know the holidays are near because Germantown Parkway has suddenly become a parking lot and our Netflix queue is filled with Polar Express and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Every year around this time I make new resolutions, resolving to give love instead of desperate gifts from the end caps at Target, determined to remember the needy in my own community and around the world instead of filling toy baskets with more pink plastic, intent on celebrating that holy night when a brilliant star pierced the velvety sky illuminating a tattered stable, the night Love was born and Hope entered the world.

But while I start out with the best of intentions, my people-pleasing tendencies catch up with me, and I want to be everywhere and do everything. A couple years ago my favorite author, Shauna Niequist, wrote about this time of year inviting us to choose present over perfect. Those words reverberate in my soul throughout the year, but never more so than this time of year. Present over perfect.

I just got Ann Voskamp’s new book The Greatest Gift, unwrapping the full love story of Christmas. On the back cover, Ann writes, “I don’t want a Christmas you can buy. I don’t want a Christmas you can make. What I want is a Christmas you can hold. A Christmas that holds me, remakes me, revives me. I want a Christmas that whispers, Jesus.” Yes, yes, yes. The book walks you through the Advent tradition of the Jesse tree. Ann’s son Caleb carves these exquisite oak advent wreaths, and last year we used some of the girls’ Christmas money to purchase one. My heart is warmed just anticipating the memories we will make circled around our little kitchen table our faces aglow with the countdown of candles. I know in reality someone will probably burn a finger or singe an eyebrow or something else fun like that, but nevertheless we will gather together to remember how God used an imperfect lineage to show a world His perfect love.

I’ll never forget the Christmas after Lydia was born, my first Christmas as a mom. On a frigid night in December I held this child I’d longed for, ached for, waited for. I cradled her in my arms while staring at our nativity. Salty tears fell down my cheeks, and I was overcome with this gift unfathomable. My heart now knew what it meant to love a child, so great a love that I would give my own life to save hers. Most of the time when I look at a nativity, I want to see how the artist represented the Baby, but this time I could only see Mary. I imagined myriad of emotions she must have felt as she waited and wondered and watched her womb swell with her Son and her Savior.

I want to abide in the wait, to treasure, to ponder. I don’t want to be so busy with cookie swaps and Christmas parties that I miss out on these moments, these times to reflect and remember, to celebrate and stand in awe of that Holy Night. The night pain and darkness were shattered. The night Love was born.