Christmas 2012, and I’ve banned myself to my room for the night.
Today I’ve ridden brand new bikes, played new board games, Helped build Lego sets, played Minecraft, picked up trash.
I’ve ruined a ham, tried to teach my middle school daughter how to put on her new makeup (and failed), and crashed an RC car repeatedly into the kitchen cabinets.
I’ve danced (badly) to loud Christmas songs, tried my hand at calligraphy (also a fail), and ate way too much waffles and fudge.
Today I’ve also read the Christmas story, studied selected related verses, hugged and kissed each of my crew repeatedly, and sat and marveled at the fun, strong, happy, grateful children and young adults that they are.
But now I’ve banned myself to my room for a little bit of quiet (as you can imagine, it’s been mass chaos here), some time to think, to study, to write and hopefully to sleep.
As gifts were unwrapped and wrapping paper and boxes began to fly through the air, supposedly aimed at a big box in the middle of the room (my mother would have been so appalled at the disorderliness of the whole event), it certainly was chaos. Great chaos, fun chaos, but chaos nonetheless. I could barely keep up with the shouts of “Mom, look at this!” or “Mom, this is awesome!” or “Mom, would you help me….”. And in the midst of all that loud chaos, my soul was at peace. Peace that only comes from our Savior, born this day. Peace that allows me to be settled as the single mother of these four amazing kids that God has blessed me with. Peace that says “All is Well”.
Today’s chaos was beautiful. But sometimes the chaos that invades our lives is not beautiful. It can sometimes be ugly chaos, even evil chaos. This kind of chaos turns entire lives upside down. It’s the kind of chaos that invaded Newtown, CT in the weeks before Christmas. It’s the kind of chaos one experiences at the death of a loved one. It’s the kind of chaos when a divorce tears a family apart. It’s the chaos that comes with a prison sentence. And it’s the kind of evil chaos that is the unspeakable and heinous.
We’ve all been touched by hard instances of chaos, where there seems to be no peace, no settling of the soul. Where do we turn when the chaos around us literally chokes out any semblance of peace in our souls? The only place to turn to is scripture, and more specifically, to Jesus. Because He is the only–the only one capable of restoring peace to our troubled souls.
A verse I often go to when I am awakened and afraid and not at all peaceful is in John 14:27:
We can do nothing to muster up peace in our souls. We can not work hard at being peaceful. It’s a gift. And a gift is not a gift until it is received. Whew, it took me a long, long time to learn that one. But look here, Jesus clearly states “my peace I give to you”. He gifts us with peace, kind of like we have gifted our children this Christmas day. But it is not peace that comes from the world. No, this is divine peace, divine peace that has the audacity to say “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” When I am afraid in the middle of the night, I often argue back to God “How?? How in the midst of chaos and disorienting terror do I keep my heart from being afraid??” I can’t. I can not. Only Jesus can settle my fearful heart with His peace. Only to Him can I go to.
I’ve read the Christmas story quite a bit over the last few days.
Here was this very, very young girl. Maybe 15. Maybe 17. Either way, young. And pregnant, by the Holy Spirit of all things! And now the time has come for her to give birth and she’s far away from home. She’s alone with her new husband, there’s no room in the inn, and she must give birth in the stable. And there is real fear in birth. It’s a chaotic, fearful event even when surrounded by trained doctor’s and nurses–how much more so all along, in the cold, in a stable.
And then, shortly after the baby is born, here come shepherds. I don’t imagine they came quietly, like they seem to do in our pageants. No, I rather think they came excitedly, boisterously even, after their experience with the angels!! And here is Mary, trying to take in all of this chaos of a virgin birth, a birth in a stable, a new born baby boy, and a gaggle of shepherds coming to tell them what the angels said and all wanting to see the long-awaited Savior, Christ the Lord.
Yes, I believe it was a recipe for chaos. For life-altering chaos.
Yet here is the beautiful, holy verse that shows us how Mary coped with this chaos:
She didn’t panic in this midst of this chaos. She didn’t shoo the smelly shepherds away from seeing baby Jesus. She didn’t demand better accommodations or privacy. She didn’t badger the shepherds with question after question about what was said about her baby. No, instead she gathered all these things up, “treasured” them up, pondering them in her heart.
Wow. Mary treasured all these things up and pondered them in her heart. She thought on them. She saved them for her soul to examine and wrestle with. And, though scripture doesn’t say it, I can’t help but wonder if she didn’t take these things she was pondering to God, her heavenly Father, to get the peace that only He could give her.
Tonight, in the midst of the good chaos of this beautiful Christmas day, as well as the difficult chaos that life on this earth has brought, I find myself in a pondering mood. Pondering over the wonder that each of my children are. Pondering over the provision my God has given my family in the midst of crises. Wondering what the future holds, and fighting back the fear that those thoughts bring, remembering that my Jesus says to not be afraid. Pondering over the deep gratitude toward friends, and wonder and awe towards my God that my soul experienced today.
Tomorrow, I must return to the chaos that is work and life. Many of you also, have to return to regular life, and the chaos it can bring. I am fearful for this. I wish it could stay Christmas all year long. But it can’t. And another year of life is coming quickly.
My prayer for all of us is that somehow we will remember to ponder like Mary, and treasure the things of our life up in our soul, and that we will also accept the gift of peace that Jesus offers, that is not of this world.
That we’ll not let our hearts be troubled.
That we will neither let them be afraid.
But only by going to Jesus.