Visions of the perfect Christmas danced in my head, as I prepared our menu and our home for the holidays. We’d be hosting both sides of our family for the first time, and I couldn’t wait!
Living in different cities and states, having extended family with us for Christmas felt like a dream come true.
But somewhere in the midst of all my preparations, I got tangled up in Christmas lights and expectations. When Christmas got here along with our guests, I couldn’t wait for them to leave.
After the gifts were unwrapped and our meal was devoured, I walked through a landfill of wrapping paper in our living room, feeling overwhelmed and empty.
As kids played and grandparents napped, I snuck upstairs to our bedroom closet where I sat on the floor, trying not to cry. Taking a deep breath, I opened my Bible to read the Christmas story, hoping that might help:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)
I closed my eyes and pictured Mary wrapping Jesus like a gift, folding each corner of cloth around His tiny body and placing a kiss on his forehead, before placing him in the manger.
In that moment, I knew. He was what I was missing. I hadn’t made room in my heart for the gift of His presence and peace.
Although I’d gone through the motions of Advent, I was relying on myself to make Christmas something only He could. I confessed my heart to God and asked Him to help me step into the Biblical narrative and see myself there as I read the whole Christmas story.
Afterwards, I wrote my thoughts down in a prayer, my words weaving unexpectedly in rhythm and rhyme. It became an invitation that guided me the rest of that day and in the days of all the Decembers that followed.
Over fifteen years later, I see how that Christmas, which left me empty, led me to a fullness I’d never known before. He is what we need, a gift that is ours at Christmas and every day we are willing to make room for Him:
The Manger of My Heart
This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.
Fill me with Your presence from the very start.
As I prepare for this Holy day and gifts to be given,
Remind me of the gift You gave when You sent Your Son from Heaven.
The first Christmas gift — the greatest gift ever.
You came as a baby born in a manger.
Wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree,
Waiting to be opened, to reveal Your love to me.
Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus’ birth,
when He left the riches of Heaven and wrapped Himself in rags of earth.
Immanuel, God with us, Your presence came that night.
And angels announced, “Into your darkness, God brings His Light.”
“Do not be afraid,” they said, to shepherds in the field.
Speak to my heart today, Lord, and help me to yield.
Make me like those shepherd boys, obedient to Your call.
Setting all the distractions aside, to You I surrender them all.
Surround me with Your presence, Lord, I long to hear Your voice.
Clear my mind of countless concerns and all the holiday noise.
Slow me down this Christmas, let me not be in a rush.
In the midst of all the people and planning, I want to feel Your hush.
This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.
Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.
Dwell within and around me as I unwrap Your presence each day.
Keep me close to You, Lord. It’s in Your wonderful Name I pray.
(written by Renee Swope, copyright 2019)
As you read through this Christmas prayer, which stanza resonates the most with you as the invitation your heart wants or needs to whisper to Jesus today?
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Jesus is what we need, a gift that is ours at Christmas and every day we are willing to make room for Him. -@ReneeSwope: Click To Tweet