I wasn’t ready for Christmas.
You wouldn’t have guessed it, judging from the two bulging suitcases I dragged up to the ticket counter. I was flying up Northwest to spend my first holidays with future-in-laws, to get introduced as “the girlfriend” to the family clan.
The mission was strategically planned for a quick in and out trip. Just four days. You’d be proud. I was cramming in outfits, presents and shoes, like a rabid gamer of luggage Tetris. Don’t tell me there aren’t snow storms in Washington. I was prepared.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the storm that swirled inside my heart, tearing me down where no one could see.
I wasn’t ready for Christmas because my own family was torn apart from decades of unresolved drama. My dreams of a Merry Christmas with my childhood family and my grown-up love slipped through my fingers. It was definitely gone.
Dreams At Christmas
We all dream at Christmas. We’ve been taught early on that this should be the happiest time of the year. What if it turns out to be the saddest?
It’s the most painful feeling to carry, when you have a hole in your heart because of family tensions and fears. Meanwhile, everything screams, Be of good cheer.
I woke up every morning that Christmas season, believing in miracles, waiting for everything to be alright. The situation got worse. So, I changed my prayer.
Please free me from this sadness, God. Make me alright.
As the 25th drew near, I hadn’t felt any better. I felt worse.
That Christmas Sunday, I sang the carols in tears.
How can I be joyful when the people I loved weren’t near? I was wracked with guilt because I couldn’t push away the sadness, like a dove failing to take flight in a cage.
As I mechanically stood there singing “O, Little Town of Bethlehem”, a lyric pierced through the haze. Even though I wasn’t ready for Christmas, Jesus was ready for me.
Our hopes and fears through all the years are met in Thee tonight…
Jesus stood ready to take me in, with my dashed hopes hitched along to growing fears.
In our fading hopes, Jesus invites us to come and receive Him. As we are.
Who Is Prepared
I’ve wondered why God arranged Mary’s due date around the time of a national census. Mary and Joseph didn’t have family and friends to help them with their new baby. No warm meals brought in or grandparents to relieve them from diaper duty. Joseph, the sole bread winner (most probably, a clueless new dad), had to escape with his newborn family to Egypt, to strike out a living with no contacts in a foreign land.
God definitely could have chosen a better time and circumstance to bring His Baby into their lives.
I don’t know how much better their birth experience would’ve been back home either, with rumors flying about the baby’s origins, speculations surrounding why Joseph would still stick around. Maybe it would’ve been a quiet first Christmas for them too. Something that ought to be celebrated on rooftops might have turned into an event to keep on the lowdown.
They weren’t prepared, but God was.
As I cried my pillow wet that Christmas week, I wondered about this time next year. Will I feel normal again? Will I survive these changes in my life?
I didn’t know. But, I learned that I didn’t need to be okay.
I may be unprepared for what happens tomorrow.
But Jesus is here for me. Today.
“Today… a Savior has been bornfor you.” ~ Luke 2:11
The baby Jesus really is taken from a page from God’s great history. Because that morning, as I sobbed until my eyes bulged swollen, the fully alive Jesus — grown-up and reigning on high with Christmas anthems sung to Him in full concert across the world — swooped down to my puddled place in the back pew.
There, as others cheerfully filed past me in red scarves and matching gloves, sat a crumpled Bonnie and a loving Savior in mourning with me until I had no more tears to spill.
I celebrated Jesus’ birth that year, in a way I never thought possible — unprepared. I look back and I see true Christmas came alive in me that year.
Jesus was the Light that came into the darkness.
Jesus continues to enter into our darkness today.
Maybe you are standing where I was that year, facing into this Christmas season with your hopes dashed.
Is it a dream that’s shattering or a relationship that can’t be repaired? In today’s troubled world, many of us are entering into the season with illness, financial troubles, or simply weariness.
We may be uncertain about our next steps, but we can be certain of God.
God is going to come through for us, just like that night Jesus came into the world.
We don’t need to have every problem solved — or our deepest pains eradicated — in order to meet Jesus at Christmas.
Jesus came to meet us. Right where we are.
His arms are strong enough to carry us. His eyes can see farther ahead, even though His face is close enough to trace the tears silently leaking inside us and bursting our hearts.
Jesus is God’s love that arrived in the dark of the night. He is close beside us, as we travel by faith through foreign lands of unfamiliar circumstances. He sees you and He will guide you.
We don’t have to be ready for Christmas — because Jesus is God’s Gift. Immanuel is ready for us.
As I stepped out into the greeting area, my father-in-law Butch came to join us at the airport. I was definitely regretting my packing choices as we stood waiting around the circling conveyor belt at baggage claim.
I nervously glanced over at Eric to catch any signs of embarrassment as he swung my two-ton Samsonites off the moving belts. As the two men wrestled a winter’s worth of wardrobe into a crowded trunk cavity, I buckled myself into the backseat — and realized I had left my contact lens, hair brush and anti-frizz hair gel back home in California. Next to the bathroom sink.
“So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you…”
~ Isaiah 41:10
Are you ready for Christmas?
With a week left before Christmas, there is still space and time for you to unwrap Jesus. Yes, while many are wrapping gifts left and right, readers of Faith Barista are swapping stories in December’s Unwrapping Jesus series.
Join me and share how you’re discovering Jesus in the Christmas season. We call it a jam session. Just link up your post or simply share a comment. Click here to taste some encouraging brews from the community at Faith Barista — Then, add your voice!
*Book Giveaway* I’m giving away Ian Strachan’s Advent Devotional “Today In A Manager” over at Faith Barista. By commenting or linking up at the jam, you’ll be automatically entered to win a copy.
By Bonnie Gray, serving up shots of faith at Faith Barista.
Because some days need a double shot of faith.
Kelly Sauer says
Sigh. This is a timely post, my friend.
Bonnie Gray says
I love sharing the Christmas space together, Kelly.
Jeri @godsdreamsforme says
Dear Bonnie, broken relationships…Ones I’ve tried to mend for decades, prayed over and held my arms open for – Mom, sister. Broken because I’m not enough for them, I’d have to be who they want me to be and not who I truly am.
God’s love is filling me deeply and opening me up to love others still. He’s filling the void in ways I never thought possible. He’s surrounded me with people who accept me as I am warts, foibles, and all. I feel so freed.
I’m so thankful for your posts about your family experiences. Lately, it’s really lifted me.
Isn’t it beautiful that our wet pillows are an altar to Him who takes every tear and bottles it? So beautiful. Thank You Bonnie.
Bonnie Gray says
“our wet pillows are an altar to Him who bottles it…” Praise God. What a comforting and true encouragement, Jeri! There are times we have to let go and Jesus enters with us into those painful spaces. Thank you for sharing.
Amy Sullivan says
I love that God is always ready for us. Isn’t that comforting?
We don’t have to be put together or shiny. We just have to be willing.
Thanks Bonnie! Fun reading you here.
Bonnie Gray says
“We don’t have to be put together or shiny. We just have to be willing.” God gives us this comfort, then we can then offer to each other. I’m smiling, hearing your words, Amy!
Wow, my feelings exactly! I cried myself to sleep last night after trying to discuss Christmas details with my husband (the gifts are a minor detail at this point — there’s much more behind the crying). We still have yet to purchase ANY gifts…and it’s a week away. Thank you so much for being so transparent and for saying it’s okay to be hurting during Christmas. Just what I needed to hear today!
Bonnie Gray says
Heidi, my hugs are virtually being sent here, along with our God’s arms around us both! Our Heavenly Daddy holds us near.
~just me~ says
Thank you for writing to where I am at. It’s Christmastime–the most wonderful time of the year to spend with family and friends…but that is the problem because I really don’t have such friends.
Bonnie Gray says
It can be a difficult season. But, you are not alone. Jesus is that Friend that is closer than a brother. …Lord Jesus, may you surround “JustMe” with your love and intimate companionship through this coming week. In Your name, Amen.
Amy Nabors says
What an appropriate reminder Bonnie. He is always there no matter where we are. What a comfort that truth is. Thank you for sharing.
Bonnie Gray says
Merry Christmas, Amy!
Holley Gerth says
Oh, beautiful friend, this post makes me wish for that cup of coffee with you more than ever before. The way you write through pain and back to truth is amazing. Thank you!
Bonnie Gray says
Holley, I always have a coffee cup with your name on it, ready to be filled, sweet friend. I continually give thanks to share this space of promise together, walking by faith with arms around each other!
Beth Werner Lee says
Unprepared and yet looking forward as never before. I keep waking up early! Today at 4:30. But then I lay in bed and read sweet Bible words and encouraging words and the days unfold well. I’d love to give you a hug, Bonnie. You are so dear. I too have puddled into joy with the words of a hymn. I have grieved and rejoiced at the same time and that’s comfort. Still, I’d like to be able to sleep in.
Bonnie Gray says
LOL. I hear you! Yes, sleep is golden! Grieving and rejoicing at the same time. Now, that is only possible with God! Wishing you some restful sleep this coming week, Beth!
I really needed this today… thank you.
Bonnie Gray says
May God bless you special today, Mamalion!
Living the Balanced Life says
Read this with tears streaming down my face. Thought I was going to have a pretty decent Christmas, even though we had chosen to downsize it a bit to what is important to us. However, events over the past 2 days have stirred up a major argument with our youngest child who is almost 18. Things we said that should not have been said and feelings are hurt and now she has left. My heart is broken.
Bonnie Gray says
Bernice, my mommy heart grieves with you. It is not easy to go through heart break, when we want those we love near. God will carry you through this. His arms especially open wide to those who are hurting. I know this is so painful. He will heal… Lord Jesus, may your balm of comfort wrap around the hurt here. Take care of Bernice’s daughter and bring your comfort to Bernice today. In Your Name, Amen.
I Live in an Antbed says
It is so true for so many that the holidays magnify the brokenness. May we each lay all of our expectations for what things should look like, how we should be treated, what should or shouldn’t happen, how others should behave, etc., at His Feet and allow Him to simply be our Sustenance, Sufficiency, and Provision.
Bonnie Gray says
Amen! Wonderfully expressed. Like a prayer. Thank you.
Thank you for this…it will be my second Christmas since my mom died from a brain tumor. I have struggled with being happy like the WORLD expects. Sometimes the sadness and memories flood my head and tears come no matter how hard I try to hold them back. Your words today brought me comfort. Thank you!
Bonnie Gray says
God bless you this Christmas, Deb! May you find renewed comfort in this season & give yourself the space He shares with you. Such safety we have in Him!
God speaks to me through every.single.one of your posts. It’s amazing. And that verse from Isaiah? It’s shown up on gifts, calendars and now a blog post over the past week. God is amazing.
Bonnie Gray says
Amazing, Alexandra! It’s incredible too see His words surround us like that. So personal. God is near!
Your words provide truth and perspective.
“We may be uncertain about our next steps, but we can be certain of God.”
These words are the heart of the matter for me this day.
Bonnie Gray says
Thank you, Donna, for keeping me company here today. With appreciation… Merry Christmas!
Tammy@If Meadows Speak says
Bonnie, I think this is one of my all time favorite of yours. I couldn’t take my eyes off the words.
Another great one Bonnie! I’m sure we have all experienced loss, heartbreak, disappointment at Christmastime. But the ‘Good News’ is that Christmas isn’t about us at all. Whe must keep our eyes on Jesus even when our hearts don’t want too. Let’s shout out praise to the birthday boy!!;)
That is such a blessed reflection on Scripture; though I may not be prepared for Christmas Our Lord is all set for me – for us. Had the wise men arrived or not, or the angels, or the shepherds, Our Lord would have been born to meet “our hopes and fears”.
Thank you Bonnie.
Sharon O says
I certainly related to your comment “unresolved drama” having a family member who has been snarly and not so nice this last year.
Only through the gentleness of the spirit can we press forward and allow Jesus to walk with us and through us as we go through this ‘family’ time.
As I prepare to travel far away across the ocean to be with family for Christmas and hoping I’ve ‘got it all togehter’, it’s good to remember that Christmas has a true center in Christ. If we gather around that center, the realness frees us. Thanks for the reminder. Merry Christmas! God Bless!
allison morrison says
I love how you portray Him as being here for us today…now…right when we need Him. Even if we can’t feel His presence…we can know He is there!
Thanks for sharing!
not ready. very sad. we lost my nephew unexpectedly December 19th last year. we did christmas anyway. holding on to each other for dear life. praying for hope for the family. believing that god is holding us.
what an awesome encouragement…issues might not be as bad as they could…but thank you for reminding me that Jesus meets me here…right now…Merry Christmas..
BTW…you posts always touch my heart…thanks for sharing your heart…
Joyce D. says
I love this Bonnie: “Jesus came to meet us. Right where we are.”
You’ve really helped me out this Christmas with this post and your Jam Sessions… in more ways explainable. I’m lovin’ this community you’ve got going!
Oh my Bonnie! No anti frizz serum!?!
This post couldn’t have been more perfect for me. I have been reading your blog for months, but this is the first time I’ve posted a comment. It just seemed like you were writing directly to me. I’ve been praying this week that God would help me see the joy in the season as I just feel numb. 2010 has been the most difficult year of my life, both personally and professionally. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year, but this year I’m just finding it so difficult to feel anything. Thank you for your post to let me know I’m not alone in feeling this way and that maybe I don’t need to be ready this year but God is ready for me.
Bonnie, your post is like a snuggie !! 🙂
Thank you so much, Bonnie.
We have such unreasonable expectations at times — that things will be perfect, that Christmas should be a “nice family time”, that there should be happiness, that there will be decorations and time for baking lovely things, and that gift-giving will represent loving hearts (and not mere obligations). And then Christmas comes on a set date, and of course we’re not ready. The fairy castles we built in our minds are nothing like the real world.
I’ve been thinking about the people who can’t eat sweets or other holiday treats, and how they must feel when so much to-do about Christmas centers on elaborate foods. And about those who aren’t strong enough to decorate or who don’t have friends enough to “fellowship with”. And the poor who can’t afford to give gifts, and maybe won’t receive any either. And the truly needy who are left looking into the window of a picture they can’t enter. Christ came for them, as well as for the “fortunate”. But how will they know this?
How did we ever transition from a remembrance day for the baby born in a smelly, dirty manger, who as a man proclaimed that “foxes have holes…but the Son of man has no place…”, to this fancy celebration of gifts and glitter and impossible expectations by people who don’t even worship the Christ, all telling us to celebrate wildly, commercially, un-practically?
I love the sights, sounds, colors, flavors, smells of Christmas. It’s good to have color and flavor in our lives. It would be good to enjoy special things every day, not just one season of the year. I like it that people seem more cheerful and friendly enough to greet us on the streets when the rest of the year they would just pass by, on their own way to somewhere… But may we not lose sight of the real Christ, who died for us and rose again for us and lives IN us, that we might be the salt and light of the world.
May God bless us all, and help us transform our unreasonable expectation into a life of worshiping him every day, and serving his people in our own ways, even if it be through tears and fears and sorrows and sickness and defeat. “His tender mercy is over all his works, and his will is ever directed to his children’s good.” And that really is good news!
thank you, i’m learning how to take the bitter with the sweet, you’re right sometimes things arent how they are suppose to be, but even if they were they still wouldn’t be perfect so give thanks in all things….(bible)
this is where i am this year, mess mess and more mess. Broken relationships, abuse, sin, lying deceit. a mess. last year was better. How come my christmas’ were better AWAY from family. I am learning everytime i think theres a pit i can’t fall low enough to fall into, there’s another level of low. i hate it and my body is racked with pain and it’s gonna get worse, this isn’t the worst Christmas because some ppl are saved, but i can say this isn’t the one i had hoped for, i’m learning to lower my expectations. thanks.
I said this over on your site earlier. I am so grateful for you sharing. Knowing that I am not the only one who has ever felt this way or feels this way. Your words are always an encouragement to me. And writing about my Blue Christmas has really helped me focus on Christ.
Thank you for sharing this..God has been teaching me to focus on Him every day and trying to find joy in every day..whether or not I feel ready or prepared for any events in the future, He is ready for me, every day..every moment I talk to him.
Yup. My life is one jumbled mess of dashed hopes, my husband left our marriage, by my count, 3 times this year. It’s really over, and man does it hurt….But it is marvelous to remember that Jesus is here for me, and God will come through. Thank you!
Thank you sweet, loving minister of Jesus !! I am sitting at my desk weeping. This has been a year a struggling and brokeness for me. So much confusion and disappointment. I am hosting my family for Christmas Eve and have been so discouraged by the desention that always seems to surround our gatherings. My faith needed reminding today that HE is the perfect gift to me.
Lisa H says
Thank you! I thought you were writing about me for a minute! So far this is the first year in many many years I haven’t said just before Thanksgiving -‘is it January yet?’ ! God has worked so very hard in me this year, namely this fall it seems and I have come into the Christmas season focused on him and not on what I do not have—my family, my marriage, new love, etc. But I am trying to say each day that I have Jesus, he is right beside me, he loves me, he will never leave me and that is really all I need! I have cried rivers over the years in the holiday season wishing and wanting that dream family get together with my family. I’ve come to terms the last few months that that dream will never come to fruition and I am okay with that!
Robin ~ PENSIEVE says
What struck me as I read this is how you changed the way you prayed during the course of your struggle–God change ME in the midst of circumstance! What a step towards maturity…and I imagine, a work God was already accomplishing in you.
You always write with your heart, Bonnie. I can’t wait to meet you face to face one day :). xo
Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms says
Bonnie, this is a-maz-ing. Your words always, always reflect authentic courage and wisdom. He speaks mightily through you, and your ability to use the pain in your life for good is beautiful.
BTW, I always overpack yet still manage to forget essentials. *Sigh*
I adore you!
Thank you for this post … beautifully written. Our sorrows … what Jesus came for, to fill us and strengthen us. Thank you. I looked over at your blog (for the first time) and am so impressed with your genuineness of faith, and your heart of love to share and encourage. I will be returning again … and, have a wonderful Christmas with your family, and with Jesus!
With all that has been swirling around me as of late (at least the past six months), it really hasn’t felt like a merry time of year for me. As with others who have commented, broken relationships has been a common theme for me as well. I still live at home and my mom’s a Lutheran minister (I’m a Catholic convert), it has been challenging living with my parents. I am more than ready to move out (they both have drinking issues), but they are unwilling to let me go. Combine that with all my long-term friends scattered all across Canada (a lot in SW Ontario) and with me in Calgary, it’s been very difficult maintaining my sanity with no one around (most of my friends in Calgary have gone elsewhere for Christmas). Jesus and His mom have firmly asserted and implanted themselves in my life, and it is exactly through all this turmoil that they have been with me. It’s a challenge to be joyful when things at home by and large are not Jesus and His mom, yes, they’re with me, I know that, but I for once want to be taken care of than to have to take care of everyone else because that’s expected of me. Frustrating is putting it mildly.
This was me last year–just having lost a baby, physically and emotionally sick–so not ready for “the most wonderful time of the year”. You have just explained beautifully what I felt like I learned last year. He came to rescue me from my mess, to give me hope for the future, to bring light to my dark. I sensed Him so close because my need was so deep. If life was like the perfect Christmas card, why would I need Him? Would I know I needed Him? Not so much. Thank you for your post!