We wore bathrobes stitched by my mother’s own hand, terry cloth rough against our skin in navy blue and dark green. A white belt around the middle. We put towels on our heads, makeshift coverings with frayed edges. Then my brother and I marched both solemn and delighted into the living room. He Joseph and I Mary.
We’d take our places in front of a manger, usually a toy crib where one of my baby dolls played the starring role. No matter that this doll was a girl with long eyelashes and a bald plastic head. She would do. Our dog, an old but enthusiastic dachshund who looked a bit like a happy sausage, would play the role of livestock.
My Dad would clear his throat and begin to read from Luke.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them . . . (Luke 2:8-9)
Every Christmas Eve we did this by candlelight . . . until the teenage years came and we rolled our eyes and wanted only to eat seconds of dessert. In my grown-up years I have never done anything like it either.
But I think now, in the middle of the hustle and the busyness, the to-do lists and the calendar with its full boxes, that we got it right back then. That we knew so much more than I do now. Because what I remember from those times, more than anything else, is the feeling of being loved. The wonder of realizing Jesus came for me.
For me in the tattered robe with the towel slipping off her head. For me who sometimes threw things at her brother and pulled the poor dog’s ears and ate up the last piece of chocolate fudge.
Jesus came for me anyway. And all He wanted in return was for me to love Him back.
I’ve complicated things somehow. I’ve made the story of Christmas about what I do: about how well I can tie bows, and choose party outfits, and make small talk. About how the table is set and the ham is cooked. About how I sing in the service and take notes from the sermon with my neat purple pen.
But the angels didn’t say, “Good news! You get to try hard. You get to wear yourself out. You get to make sure you have it all together.” Instead they declared:
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. (Luke 2:10-11)
A Savior! For us!
This reminds me the heart of Christmas has always been about two things: A child in a manger and childlike faith.
Childlike faith is not about hustle; it’s about humility.
It’s not about perfection; it’s about grace.
It’s not about effort; it’s about extravagant love.
Maybe we could all pull out a robe this year. Maybe we could sit in our living rooms on a silent night. Maybe we could read the story again and remember the version of it we understood long ago, the one that’s still true too . . .
Jesus came. We are loved. That is all.