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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Christmas Confessions – Mising the Manger for the Mess

I have to be honest. For quite a while, now, holidays and I just haven’t gotten along. My family is fractured and spread out and I’ve just struggled w/ holidays ever since Mom & Dad divorced. Being the only one in my household to attend the church I do only magnifies it when I see all the other families together with their extended families added. It can get pretty lonely and leave me feeling very isolated. I usually go to my church’s Christmas Eve service, get home to help Mom, and then join she and Scott at their church. As my Dad used to say, I get to be ‘extra holy’ by going to multiple services. Usually each year as late November approaches I can feel like I’m heading down a snow-covered hill on a back-country road – disappearing into the woods and just waiting for the clearing to come (the new year). And if there are other issues going on at the same time it only becomes magnified. Sometimes I find myself saying ‘I just have to survive the next 5 weeks.’

This year I could feel it starting. There was a LOT of pressure in November (see previous post) and the ‘looming’ holidays only intensified it, which is why I’ve been thankful for the temporary reprieve we received with some of those stressors. But something changed a couple weeks before Christmas that really changed it for me – an ‘epiphany’ of sorts, if you will. Head vs. heart knowledge in action taking root. And it made a world of difference!

I was at practice for the Christmas Choir and the Holy Spirit, in a way only He can, quietly and gently spoke to me as we sang. I can’t even tell you what song it was or the specific lyric, but I can tell you the message: it’s about Christ. God gently knocked me upside the head, kicked me in the backside, and corrected my vision better than any eye doctor ever could. He showed me that all these years my focus has been wrong. I’ve missed the manger for the mess. All these years I’ve focused on what I’VE been missing out on. I’ve let MY losses have my attention and not my gains in Christ. I’ve been focusing on my mess and not His Manger. I’ve made Christmas about me, not Christ. Man, how I’ve missed the mark! No wonder I struggled with holiday ‘blues.’

And in that brief moment – less than 15 seconds – my attitude changed. A tear fell down my cheek. A tear of repentance. A tear of humility. A tear of sorrow for all the time I’ve squandered – for the missed celebrations. A tear of thankfulness for forgiveness. And a tear of thankfulness for the manger.

As a result the last couple weeks of December haven’t been that bad. There was still a twinge of sadness Christmas Day. I still struggled with focusing on myself and what WASN’T happening in my life that day. But I was able to identify the problem. I had to find my new glasses again. And when I recognized it, things got a little better.

My attitude also changed toward my family. Lately helping Mom has become more involved and we get on each others’ nerves. We’ve both been overtired and that’s like putting fuel on a fire. But half-way through Christmas Eve, instead of it being a night to be ‘endured’ and ‘survived’ it became ‘THIS is my family for Christmas this year. And since tomorrow will be ‘just another day’ due to work schedules, TONIGHT will be our Christmas. I WILL make it special for Mom & bro for the few hours we have together. I will be thankful for my family and focus on them and make it special for them.’ THEY became my focus AFTER celebrating the manger, not bypassing it.

Don’t miss the manger for the mess. Christ came INTO our mess THROUGH the manger. He slept in it (literally). He walked in it (literally). He died for it, and because of it. And He celebrates being the Master of cleaning up our messes. Let Him do that for you. It’ll be the best Christmas you’ll ever give yourself. He’s your gift waiting to be unwrapped – just say yes. It can be Christmas every day. LITERALLY!

“ Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

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