As the Advent season opens, I think many of us wonder how we can possibly find the time and space for God when the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations (the decorations, the shopping, the baking, the meal planning, etc.!) demands so much of us already.
Many of us, as the Christmas season begins to dawn, become stressed at the thought of all the ways in which we may disappoint ourselves and others this season: our gifts may not be appreciated, our decorations may not be admired, our meals may not be edible, and as a result our time and efforts are not validated. This process can often leave us feeling unappreciated, unloved and rejected.
The simple truth, of course, is that in order to make room for God, we must let other things go. And the things we must let go are very often things we aren’t meant to hold on to in the first place!
For me, the primary thing I need to let go of is my perfection. There is no better time of year than Christmas for my inner Supermom to rear her ugly head. THIS YEAR the house will look (and stay looking!) beautiful! THIS YEAR our family photo will be the envy of all. THIS YEAR the smells of my fresh baked cookies will permeate the very walls of our house and leave guests saying for months…mmmm, doesn’t their house smell yummy? THIS YEAR our family will give so generously to our local charities that we’ll be contacted by our newspaper wanting to give us some recognition (“Oh, no thanks,” we’ll say so modestly, “we want to remain anonymous!”) THIS YEAR our kids with their shiny cheeks and sparkling clothes will not only go to church and sing like angels but serve the local soup kitchen before they even think to look under the tree and see if there are any presents for themselves. When they do notice, they will shriek with excitement saying, “Oh my goodness, pinch us! We do not deserve such kindness!”…
I will confess this is a *bit* of what my “kingdom” looks like every year.
It is my own personal Kingdom of Christmas.
And, perhaps not shockingly, it never happens that way.
While I do exaggerate my Kingdom of Christmas (at least a little), the one thing I’m certain of is that I’m not alone in my quest for making the Christmas season one of my own private perfection. What there is “no room” for in my vision of this kingdom (despite my penciling in the extraordinary charitable donations and soup kitchen, haha) is a breaking down of my self. Because guess who in my little kingdom sketch is really the hero?
That’s right: me.
Most of us don’t create for ourselves a Kingdom of Christmas where we fail miserably, or where we are humbled, or where we give to the point that it makes us angry or sad that we’ve had to sacrifice our own material comforts (maybe even disappoint our children from the latest technology upgrade?) for people we don’t even know, and who will never know it was us who sacrificed at all.
God’s kingdom, of course, is vastly different from our own personal kingdoms. I think my good friend Anne over at www.makingroomforgod.com said it best in her post on pride a few weeks ago:
“God sent us Jesus to mimic for us – in human form – just what He wants us to do.
He wants us to realize that His Kingdom looks like a stable and a manger – not a palace and a throne.
He wants us to realize that His Kingdom serves the poor and the lowly, not the rich and the prideful.
He wants us to realize that His Kingdom will go against the rules of society.
He wants us to realize that His Kingdom will endure trials and tribulations that no person should ever endure; it won’t have a lot of uplifting, powerful moments that open the door to prideful thoughts. You may not ever be recognized for your work.
His Kingdom will require us to relinquish control, be smart on our feet, and to outwit with God’s control; it won’t have anything to do with us.
His Kingdom requires the death of ourselves on a lowly cross; it will not be a celebration of all that we have accomplished.”
It’s no wonder Luke tells us that Mary had to lay our infant King in a manger because there was no room for any of them in the inn (Luke 2:7); many of us are so busy trying to be the heroes of our own stories, that our egos have booked every room!
The Good News, of course, is that when we do fail (and we will), and we feel ourselves “humbled and suffering” as a result of our failures, we can know that that is the precise moment in which a much more beautiful process has begun. It is the process in which we have broken down enough for God himself to begin working in us, because, unlike us, God does not fear nor avoid the lowly places.
In fact, Luke reminds us, it is always there, where we least expect, that he begins to “make room” and build what we never could—a Kingdom that will last.