Christmas is upon us and it really is the most wonderful time of the year. But I think you’ll agree, that in the midst of all the wonder, there’s a whole bunch of extra work and stress and a much longer to-do list. And I’m behind. I’ve taken to counting the hours I have between commitments to see if I can actually squeeze everything in.
We have a full household, with three sons living here, a few who come and go, and an assortment of their friends coming in and out at all hours. We have a couple of bands that practice in the basement, two constantly shedding dogs, and you know… just a lot of traffic in and out of here, which creates a lot of mess. And did I say that we’re busy? We are not a “lay around the house” kind of family. We do stuff. And in our hurrying, we leave things everywhere, to be picked up at some unspecified later time.
I occasionally run into someone who claims to “love” to clean, to live to organize… whatever… I can’t relate. But, you know the type- those people who are obsessive compulsive about household cleanliness… The ones who wipe up messes immediately and disinfect the bathrooms every day? Well let’s just say there are none of those living at our house.
So I was almost literally flying around my house today picking up the piles of stuff, mostly to move them to other more organized piles. As I watched the dust and dog fur through the mid-morning sun streaming in the window, I secretly fumed. Everybody had stuff everywhere. There was laundry on the kitchen table, a Star Wars Death Star (still in the box) lying on the kitchen counter- our youngest is 19 and swears it’s not his. There was crinkled used wrapping paper and glitter on the coffee table, and assorted shoes, socks, and jackets on almost every level surface.
My manger scene was on its back, under the Christmas tree with a pitiful few presents, as I hadn’t gotten around to wrapping yet. The “stable” structure acted as mere receptacle for the inexpensive Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus figurines, who lay in a jumble with a couple of farm animals and regal wise men, waiting patiently to be put in their places (and silently mocking me.) That hadn’t been taken care of because of the piles of jackets that were on the table that was their usual display spot. It was 3 days before Christmas, and I didn’t even have the holy family in residence yet- so much for Jesus being the reason for the season and all.
My brain went rogue and did a mental inventory. Did my Christmas decorating reflect my faith? Were there signs anywhere in my whole house that our family celebrated Christmas because of Jesus? I could think of one thing… a banner depicting the nativity in my dining room. Fail. *sigh*
I moved away from the tree to the kitchen and started sorting another pile. I needed to clean off the surface of my kitchen hutch to make room for what was supposed to be stored there. I brought the trash can over and started pitching. As I leafed through an inch high stack of old mail, long forgotten “official” paperwork from a school that my boys hadn’t attended in years, user manuals and warrantee information, I saw some photos that had been stashed there during some other long-ago clean up. There was a studio picture from the school photographer of my son and his then-best friend. It was so sweet. I didn’t know school photographers did that, and I didn’t remember ever seeing this one. I set it aside. Here was a snapshot of another son working with babies in the nursery at our old church. The baby smiled broadly as he was being rocked in a large rocking chair by my 8 or 9 year old boy, who gazed tenderly at this anonymous little one. Another showed a birthday get together, my son, the birthday boy gleefully holding up his present for the camera. I finished the pile, restashing anything valuable, and moved to the dining room.
As I begrudgingly evaluated the situation there, a thought came into my head and I banished it quickly. Why was it that everyone else’s stuff bothered my so greatly, but I forgave my own messes without hesitation? After all, I was busy. I worked hard and put in a lot of hours. I was entitled to leave my stuff wherever I wanted in my house. Right? But they… they were being irresponsible, lazy and… well… messy. Yes, that was it.
Whew. This was big. The large dining room table (seating for 8, but we’d often sat as many as 12 around it) was almost completely covered. There were college text books and an antique trumpet in a rectangular case that Jake had brought home from his first grown-up road trip. A tangle of evergreen garland reminded me again of my failure to get the house “ready for Christmas.” I’d get to that today, I promised myself. Or I’d dump it back in a rubbermaid bin and get it out of sight until next year. Here was a tray of jewelry making supplies, for one of my creative outlets, which now had a fine covering of dust on it, seeing as it hadn’t been touched in several weeks. There was more laundry, a pair of shoes on a chair and a variety of jackets slung across the backs of chairs. This is the room where Jake gives music lessons. Two chairs reflected his teaching arrangement, set facing each other, apart from the table, though it had been a week since the last lesson. I sighed and pushed them back to proper placement, calling it a day. Really, it had only been an hour, but I needed to get ready to go. I was taking one of our young friends out to practice driving and to test for his driver’s license.
I’d made some progress, but not enough. There was still the living room, the family room, and miles to go before I slept. I glanced at the snow men arranged by the front door, crowded and disheveled because of a few more pair of size “Large” shoes that had been shed and left, and my heart softened. This was life at the Stergos home. We have boys. And dogs. We have schedules and lessons and classes and jobs. We have meals together, around the table or in front of a movie. We laugh a lot. We hug. We invite people into our family and love them. We make cookies and eat gobs of dough. We make fun of our dogs, quote favorite movies, have late night popcorn, are addicted to more than one TV drama together, and we make messes. And we have God- right in the middle of all of it, because He chose to come into our mess. He came here, to us and to you, because He wanted to be with us.
I had failed miserably to put “signs of Jesus” into my Christmas decorating, but there were signs of Him everywhere in the middle of my failure. I just had to notice and remember. We are a family that celebrates Him all year long. We know of His presence. We celelbrate Him in sunsets, in laughter, in daily chatter or late-night conversations. We see Him in each other. We see Him in you. And there is evidence of Him, even in our piles. God is with us, because in His boundless love for us He chose to be with us. He is Immanuel, literally the “with us God.” He is with us in our crumpled wrapping paper, glitter on the coffee table, jumbled on the floor nativity moments. He is with us in our everyday laughing, crying, mourning, celebrating, mundane and wondrous lives- becauseHe loves us.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Thank you God, for the reminder. Merry Christmas.