What could ruin the coming of Christ

This is a repost of something I wrote last Christmas. Last December was the hardest month yet with our daughter and her health; but the gems of truth I learned during that time have carried me through the various sorrows I am carrying into Christmas this year too. I hope this blesses you to read again as I know it blessed me.


There is so much to anticipate about Christmas. The time with family and friends. The presents under the tree. The vacation days. The special feasts that invite us to remember the incarnation with songs sung by candlelight. 

But with every anticipated event comes a certain amount of anxiety; for all of us. To get the shopping done on time. To prepare the food for the guests. To teach our children the meaning behind the celebration, and so much more. The anxieties include the small griefs associated with the plans foiled, the cookies we never baked, the gingerbread houses that were accidentally left in the garage, the advent calendar we didn’t remember to start until halfway through the month.

But sometimes these anxieties run deeper. Sometimes they are the deep fears that are the product of deep griefs. Sometimes the current of suffering and grief drive us through the holiday season at a pace that feels unnatural. It can be hard to sing a Christmas song when it seems like everything around us is wrong. 

Fear and anxiety should not be invited to take a seat at our tables during this joyful time of year, but yet sometimes it seems like they’ve pulled out the seat of honor and made themselves quite at home, always without our consent, and often without our immediate knowledge.

If you are worried about this Christmas, that something might ruin it. That the holiday stress will drag you down. That the traffic will make you angry. That the checkout lines at the shopping mall will frustrate you. Or that your family will be angry with you because you have to work…Fear not.

If you are worried that the grief over a loved one missing around the table will swallow you whole. If you are fearful that the constant suffering that plagues your everyday life might spoil Christmas. If you are alone this year and don’t know who you’ll celebrate with. If your spouse is in prison. If a loved one has cancer. If the budget is too tight for gifts for your kids this year. Fear not.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret; nothing can ruin Christ’s coming. Not then. Not now. Not ever. 

Jesus’ birth occurs in the context of a census taken by the Roman empire. The Jews were being taxed by an oppressive regime, who wanted to count and see just how many of them there were as if counting assets, not people.  He was born in a humble town, after a long on-foot road trip. A town so crowded that no one had room even for a very pregnant woman on the verge of giving birth. He was born in a stable, surrounded by the dirt and the hay and the feces of animals. Delivered by his teenage mother in the usual turmoil of the usual way. Caught by a man whom he would grow to call Father, though he himself had biologically nothing to do with him. Unless of course you considered that is was Jesus’ very breath of life that made Joseph’s own chest rise and fall. 

If I wanted to tell a story of a birth plan spoiled, I don’t have to look any farther than the birth of my own Savior. I wonder what Mary thought, in the midst of intensity of labor. I wonder if she held fast to the faith that all this was as God had planned it, or if she doubted, even for a moment, the way the Lord chose for this Savior to come. Did she wonder if his birth was being profaned by the dung and the dust in that moment? Or did she know with certainty that everything was exactly as it should be.

In the fullness of time, he came. Nothing could stop him. Nothing could ruin it. Every strange, painful, and difficult circumstance along Mary and Joseph’s way, only confirmed the prophecies that had already been spoken of Messiah. All of it was by God’s grace, for his glory. 

The maiden girl, the stall, the manger, was exactly the way he had to come.  It was apart of who he was as “Immanuel”, God with us

He was born to breathe that filthy air. Born to feel the pain of a scraped knee. Born to feel the sting of a harshly spoken word. Born to feel the wrongness of people’s anger towards him. Born to submit to the authority of human parents, though He alone was the ultimate authority in all the Universe. All of this before he even would begin his more official “ministry” among us.  And not one iota of those experiences could ruin his coming, because of course; that was why he came. He was born to feel in the flesh, the effects of the curse as far as it was found, even as he came to ultimately break the curse once and for all, forever.  

Nothing could ruin the miracle of his coming. No corrupt governments, no inns full to bursting, no filthy stalls. 

He came for the social outcasts, as well as those who were held in high esteem. The shepherds, who abandoned their flocks for a chance to touch his sleeping face, were just as welcome as the three kings bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

We were going to go cut our own tree this year. We’d been planning it for weeks. We thought we’d take some friends with us. We’d warm up with cocoa after. It would be the snowy family adventure we’d been longing for since the hot hot months of summer. 

Then Friday night came with another auto-immune flare up in our little girl. We were up all night holding her, consoling her. Praying for her. Singing over her. Holding back her hair and wiping the tears from her cheeks. And when the new mercy light of Saturday morning finally came, I knew there was no way we were going to go cut our own tree. 

So we traded off taking naps and watching the kids. We ate leftovers. We cancelled our plans. And when four o’clock came around, I made my husband a thermos of coffee and sent he and our middle son out in the snow to find the perfect tree from a local tree lot. 

Ellie woke up to find them gone, and though she knew we would have been cutting our own tree if not for her flare up of illness, she took it as a kindness that the boys were out finding the perfect one just for us. Just to cheer us up. 

In the fullness of time; even if our timing seems off for everything, God is always on time. Nothing is by accident. All is for our good and his glory. That baby in the manger didn’t come because he wanted to be apart of some idyllic winter solstice celebration—he came because we are broken, and he wants to heal us. 

If you feel broken down and beat up by life right now: Christmas is for you. If you feel weighed down by the burdens of past hurts laid upon you by others: Christmas is for you.  If you are afraid of the emotional, or physical pain that you are experiencing and very well may continue to experience all throughout the Christmas season, Christmas is for you.

If you are tired of muddling through life in your own strength. If you have nothing left when the dawn finds you, then take heart! Christmas is for YOU. 


The holiness of this Holy Night of the Incarnation mirrors the holiness for which God has set us apart: the holiness is not clean and tidy like the stained glass images of the birth of Christ, but in the midst of the mess and the mud and the blood, it is set apart. And if you believe in Christ Jesus, then you are set apart, by God’s grace and for his glory. And nothing can take that away from you.

Glory. That’s what makes the more obviously sacred and the seemingly profane aspects of our lives  the same in the economy of God. Because God redeems profane people with profane pasts into the sacred work of his coming Kingdom. And the redemptive power of Jesus more than defeats the pervasive power of sin and shame. 

Nothing can ruin the coming of Christ.  Not then, not now, not ever.

Not the oppression of governments. Not abuse. Not job loss or relationship loss. Not homelessness. Not the diagnosis. Not school shootings. Not the death of a loved one. Neither height nor depth, neither angels nor demons, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else can separate us from the love of God, made incarnate, in  Christ Jesus our Lord. (Paraphrase from Romans 8:38) 

Fear not. No matter what trials your Christmas holds, the best gift of Christmas is always and already yours to hold; the very presence of God with you in the midst of whatever you are going through. 

You are not alone. If there’s anything I can be praying for you for this Christmas, please leave a comment below, or click reply to one of my emails if you are a subscriber. I’d love to hear from you; and I’d love to pray for you.

Gracie

{Photos shown in post, in order they appear  c/o Francois Pistorius, Dan Kiefer, Davidsonluna on Unsplash} 

This post is dedicated to my three youngest siblings, and all the survivors of the Arapahoe High School shooting on December 13, 2013. 6 years ago I didn’t know what to say. Now, I do. 

Miraculous Asparagus

I discovered what the mystery plant was. In my garden, right next to the Northern fence, stood a small little patch of something that at first I thought looked like dill. It was in a raised bed, and I could tell that it had been planted there, but day after day I looked at this strange plant that kept growing taller, with thin, fern like leaves, then red berries in the fall…and I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked a few friends, a few people more skilled in gardening than myself. But they couldn’t tell me what it was either.

But I knew it must be something. So I watered and I watched. I staked it to the fence when it got so tall that it fell over. And when fall came, and still I had no clue, like any self-respecting gardener, I decided I’d wait till spring to either 1) figure out what the heck it was or 2) to pull it up and plant cucumbers there instead.

It was with no small degree of shock, elation and unreasonable joy then this spring when I looked over towards that northern garden bed to see this growing where my then still un-pruned, mystery plant had been.

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I never would have guessed. Not in a thousand years. My mystery plant, was actually asparagus. I LOVE asparagus. (Photo taken after I gleefully cleaned out that northern garden bed.)

See that little fern-y, dilly looking plant right behind that gorgeous asparagus? Apparently, that’s what asparagus look like the first year they come up. They go through an awkward “ferned out” phase, during which the plant gather all the nutrients it needs for the next year’s asparagus. And each year they multiply and they grow and the “asparagus” portion of the plant’s life, gets longer and longer.

Maybe you already know all this. But being the complete nubie gardener that I am, I found it all so miraculous and amazing. And there I was, two weeks after I found that patch of asparagus that had always been there, that once again I was reaping what I hadn’t sown.

And I was eating it for breakfast. (With scrambled eggs and chèvre goat cheese, delicious!)

And it reminds me of the Gospel, how through what Jesus did for us on the cross, we get to reap exactly what we HAVEN’T sown, and what a grace it is. What JOY in reaping the exact opposite of what we have sown. His righteousness, the fruit of His life, accredited to us in the place of the destruction of our sin.

And the other thing: maybe this blog is in an awkward ‘ferned out’ phase. And maybe, just maybe, we don’t really  know what it is yet. And it’s getting propped against the northern fence. And it’s still getting watered when I think of it, and maybe before very long, like a brilliant AHA! moment, it will be there.

And I’ll be like, ‘YES! So that’s what it was all along!’ And you’ll nod along amiably that I finally figured it out, and together we’ll be nurtured and nourished by what we haven’t sown, by what we haven’t understood, because together we gave it the time it needed to become.

So Dear Reader, if you are still here, if you are still listening… Thank you. I’ve been on Sabbatical for three months, and still you read something in your inbox that came from that weird lady who keeps trying to force herself to commit to writing about something consistently, but she can’t quite seem to figure out what.

Some days we cultivate. Others, we harvest the fruit. And always, there’s the waiting in between.

I’ve re-dubbed this blog “Cultivating a Fruitful Life”, because that’s what I want to do. And that’s what I want to help you do to. By God’s grace, for His glory. We were made to bear fruit. And because I haven’t known just what this blog wants to be yet, consider this your fair warning that it might not always be what you’ve come to expect anymore. I want to share spiritual truths, I want to encourage you to live boldly into the individual calling that God has placed on your life. I also want to encourage you as you pursue fruitfulness in some of the more physical ways that I have found the Lord uses to shepherd my heart in my own life. Things like gardening, making jam, brewing kombucha, milking a goat, cooking a delicious meal for your crew. (Most of that will probably happen on my newly titled Instagram account @gracieishomesteady if you are interested.)

So consider this your fair warning; this blog may be entering a highly experimental phase. It’s ferned out. It doesn’t even know what it is yet, and that’s okay.

Is your life feeling like a ferned out asparagus? Not sure what it wants to be yet? Or maybe you know, but you’re just in a season of long waiting. I’d love to hear from you. As well as if you have topic praises/critiques/requests. Just leave a comment below.

Praying for you, dear reader. That something here will help you to cultivate a fruitful life, that you and those around you may reap that harvest, by God’s grace and for His glory.