Waking up every couple of hours to an echoing voice, billowing through the streets, in a language we cannot understand, with words not meant for our Father…
This is not the ideal way to spend the hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas morning came too early; the coffee wasn’t strong enough. My mug was dirty; my oatmeal was cold. I stared at my families’ faces and dreamed of when I’d see them next. And then I shut my computer. I began to cry. I kept whispering to myself, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Can you imagine all the emotions Mary and Joseph faced as they listened to their baby cry and coo? As they watched Immanuel—G0d with us—fall asleep? The Christmas story says it so insignificantly at first: “They laid their firstborn son in a manger.” No fanfare. No remembrance of the name given to Mary. No big deal.
Because G0d wanted to make a bigger deal of the message and the message bearers. So, He revealed His glory to shepherds. The lowliest of the low. He sang over them His song—“Good news! Great joy! ALL people!” And then He told them to go find the One who had come to teach the world His song. And they went. And they told Mary and Joseph what they had heard. That’s when Mary begins to treasure these things. That’s when He calms her heart with grace to be able to process and behold Him in this baby at her side.
The birth was so quiet. Until the message was made known. Until it was revealed and then shared.
Which is exactly why we’re here.
This Christmas Day. The day you expect to feel the least here, the least available to anyone but yourself and your computer and your phone—eager to hear from others, to see the memories you are missing and wonder what it’s like without you. The day you expect to most turn inward and bitter with where your feet are planted. The day you’d rather run straight for home. Straight for arms that feel more familiar and sure, straight for trusted ones that have been planted with you for years.
But, instead, He meets you, this divine crusher of expectations, not that He may ruin you, but that He may ruin your plans with His own. His own—you’ve felt them before. These unexpected plans that blow you away. The tingling on your skin when you knew His nearness in the dark. The fluttering in your heart before you saw Him move.
It came as I swayed. I swayed, leaning on one foot, then the other, listening to a worship song not in my heart language, watching young girls worship with eyes closed and hands open to their Father. My heels dug into the soft dirt under the prickling, plastic mat I stood on, my hands opened, and then I closed my eyes. And I saw Him. Not because He showed up to me, but because He was in that place. He is in this place. Where I stand. Where I sway. Where I live. He is here.
And I recognized a familiar feeling in my heart spring up. I felt it grow like Grinch’s heart. I felt Him stirring, stirring, stirring, a fresh feeling, old but revived from the ashes of dashed expectations: I’m home, it whispered. (He’s always whispering in that still small voice).
I’m home, again. Louder this time. I kept swaying. I let the feeling linger. I let it consume and still my mind, wracking itself weary to understand the songs (which were not in the language I’m learning). And I worshipped. Not the feeling, but the Former of it. Not the place, but the Provider of it. Not the ground, but the Maker of it. The One who spits in it to make blind men see. The One who whisks His servants here and there to make His good news known. The One who lets fear come for a moment, to cast it out with perfect love the next. I’m home. Not because of where I stand, but because of the One who stands with me.
It came again as A’s sister-in-law D translated for me through the second and third sermons of the day. The youth leader was speaking, and she was full of the H.S. I loved watching her expressively share and challenge the crowds to care more about their heart towards God than towards themselves. D translated here and there, sprinkling in her own story through it.
“I’m a baby Christian,” she sweetly spoke. “Only two years, since I left my H*ndu family, married into Chr*stian family, and began following G0d. You know more than I do. I’m still growing, every day, seeking to grow more towards the G0d.”
“That’s so good,” I took her arm with my hand. “Me, too. We’re all growing.”
“I used to not be nice to anyone,” she said. “But God has changed me. I love everyone now, and I know it is only because of Him.”
“Oh, I cannot even imagine you not loving everyone!” Her smile & laughter are so infectious. I sat and realized that I want to spend more time here, with this family.
“Ohhhh, well, He changed me.” she repeated.
I kept my hand on her arm for a few minutes, marveling at the miracle that happens when we know, really know, G0d.
She kept translating. I kept marveling. We sang. We danced. We ate. We loved.
Oh, how He loves.
This Christmas Day. When love became incarnate. When hope became tangible. When joy made itself known in a baby’s cry in the dark. And faith, true faith, became possible as grace showed up on the scene like a star, drawing the nations to itself.
Good news. Great joy. All people.
It was Diosmeeta’s story—my favorite part of the day—that prompted P’s heart to ask a question least expected:
“What about you?” she said. My heart skipped a beat. “Were you born a Chr*stian?”
I dove headfirst into the story, my story mingled with His, and He showed up on those shadowed streets. So did our enemy, stealing the show in my friend’s heart. But He cannot steal the seeds—not all of them anyway. He cannot steal this sowing that the Father so clearly orchestrated. He cannot steal the Father’s work.
This Christmas Day. I wasn’t at home. But I was home. In my Father’s will. And it was perfect. It was beautiful. It was full of glory. The light has come into the world, and the darkness has not overcome it.