The First Christmas Was Not Peaceful

Messy Coffee

During the holidays I find myself, even more than usual, wishing for calm. I want peaceful evenings in front of the tree and pleasant outings to see the lights. I want safe quiet travels followed by pleasant gatherings with family and friends. I want Christmas morning marked by grateful children, the celebration of Jesus, and toys that cooperate as the instructions suggest. I want this. I have never experienced it. Christmas is usually better in hindsight. In the moment, it’s a little bit nuts.

In truth, Christmas is probably going to be some of the above paired with my children pestering one another.  When we travel, someone will instinctively need to pee because we just passed the last gas station for 30 miles. The nieces and nephews will be super pumped for presents and also crying by 9am because one of them took Baby Jesus out of the manger. Both cooking and travel will be a bit more rushed than we would like. It’s chaos before, chaos after, with moments of peace dotted in between.

What gave me pause today, and brought me joy, was realizing that I have been idolizing a peaceful Christmas when the first one was anything but. I am the one who decided that Christmas should be peaceful. Jesus has given us absolutely no such assurance that will be the case. In fact, it is the chaos of our own Christmases that can actually serve to point us to Christ.

In the days leading up to the very first Christmas a divinely inspired set of circumstances upended a few lives. A young girl was pregnant with a baby she didn’t fully know how to explain or understand. Her husband-to-be was a bit perplexed that she was pregnant until an angel showed up and told him to be cool with it. They went ahead and got married while she was pregnant and began their life together. Then, when Mary was unable-to-see-her-toes levels of pregnant, the government told them to make their way back to their hometown for a census. Upon arrival there were no hotel rooms left, she went into labor and gave birth in a barn. Complete and utter chaos. Then, just for a moment…

The heavens shouted glory.
The shepherds showed up to worship.
The wise men gave gifts.

And the world paused to celebrate the birth of the Savior.

Then, within minutes, the chaos began again. Just barely post-partum, Mary had to get up and go in the middle of the night because King Herod had a plan to kill their newborn. Furious that he didn’t catch Jesus, he went about killing a bunch of other babies (Matt. 2:16-18). Literally running for their lives, Mary and Joseph had to learn how to be parents and raise the Savior of the world in a foreign land without family and they didn’t get to go home for a really long time. Yes, aside from that one most important moment, the first Christmas was anything but peaceful.

So why have I decided that Christmas has to be peaceful? Why have I idolized something that was never set before me to begin with? Because like most things, we like to control how our lives roll out. We like to set parameters around how particular events are supposed to go. Praise the Lord of our lives that we didn’t get to choose how Jesus came into this world because we would have mucked it all up with our priorities. And, praise the Lord that He taught me about the chaos of the first Christmas this year so I don’t muck up my own.  Bring on the chaos, the unpredictability, and the moments of joy and difficulty that I don’t even know are coming. This year, I hope to let it help me worship my Savior all the more.

If you enjoyed this, please see Anne’s blog for more mental health topics around suffering, reframing difficulty, and making meaning in challenging experiences.

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