Monday, December 30, 2013

'Twas Truly An Upside-Down Christmas

In many ways... it was... an upside-down Christmas.
Oh yes, it was! But more on that in a bit. First off... let me say this, "Well, hello there blog! It's been a while, hasn't it?" It has been an incredibly busy month in our household and there hasn't been time at all to blog. As December comes to a close in just a bit over 24 hours, and a new year dawns... it would be amiss for me not to at least write about our Christmas.

Yes, our Christmas! This one was... upside-down. Yes, upside-down! In more ways than one, in beautiful ways and in not-so-beautiful ways... yes, in terribly broken ways... it was truly an upside-down Christmas.

Please click here to read our family's Christmas letter.

It was mid-November when... 
I read this blog post written by Ann Voskamp where she talked about a Christmas revolution, an upside-down Christmas! Her words so resonated with my heart...
Be brave enough to return the fake CHRISTmases and only bring home the real one that has CHRIST at the center of it.
Be brave enough to return any Christmas too small for the size of your soul — and only wear a Christmas large enough for real joy.
Be brave enough to turn Christmas upside down because this coming Christ ushered in the Upside Down Kingdom where
less is more and
weak is strong and
least is greatest and
consumers can get consumed and
giving is greater than getting.
Ann's words pierced my heart. I wanted to be brave. I knew I was ready for a Christmas revolution!

We put up our Christmas tree... 
Christmas music played at home and in the car. I even hung an upside-down Christmas tree by our patio door! We started and tried to keep up with Advent readings from The Greatest Gift... and failed.

We made a list and checked it twice... buying socially-responsible gifts and thinking hard about how to creatively forego materialistic gifts and focusing instead on "others-centered" gifts... and I fretted about how these radically different gifts will be received by our family and friends.

A community Christmas dinner at an inner-city ministry was in the works for our church family to volunteer at, with me being responsible for many of the details... and I stressed to no-end about it.

Days were hurried. Tiredness set in. Fuses were short. A family squabble ensued. It was ugly.

Christmas cards and letters sat on my desk waiting to be addressed and mailed... and they sat there untouched. 

The Christmas baking was still waiting to be done. The grocery list was still just a list. The gifts weren't wrapped. Christmas was a disaster! 

Where was the picture-perfect upside-down Christmas that I was planning for?

Then, an ice storm hit five days before Christmas and we lost power... for 43+ hours, along with half a million others. All Christmas preparations suddenly came to a halt!

As I sat there in the dark and shivered in the cold, I started to reflect on what Christmas really means. It is because of imperfect, broken people... like me, that Christmas came to be in the first place.

Love came down because I am a failure.
Love came down because I am broken.
Love came down because I am not enough.

The ice storm forced me to stop doing Christmas... and turned my focus on being Christmas

Christmas comes alive in us, Christ-followers...
... when we live it, not when we do it. Christmas isn't something we do. Christmas is something we live... because Christmas is who we are. CHRISTmas is Who is in us.

This is what a perfect upside-down Christmas looks like!

In the dark and in the cold, as I kept my fingers warm by working on a knitting project, I took some time to reflect on what it means to truly live Christmas...

It is getting Compassion children connected to loving sponsors.

It is enjoying the beauty of God's creation.

It is rejoicing when a child miraculously gets sponsored via social media.

It is enjoying a beautiful rendition of Handel's Messiah.

The lights {and heat} came back on just in time for Christmas Eve, just before our house totally froze over {just kidding... well, it was almost at freezing point!}. Thankfully, the lights came back on in my heart too.

Our backyard, on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning! My boy reading us the Christmas Story from the Bible.
Two gifts under the tree waiting to be opened. Yes, just two gifts this year.
One for our girl, and one for our boy... and instead, using our gift money
to pack Care Packages for the homeless and delivering them
together as a family later this week.

Christmas finally came...
With or without adequate preparations, Christmas morning came anyway... and it was still just as beautiful and just as meaningful. 

Love came down... for you and me.

So what if the Christmas baking is a day late? So what if the Christmas cards and letters are being mailed late? So what if there are still a couple Christmas presents still to be delivered? So what if we didn't finish our Advent readings? So what if the counter-cultural upside-down Christmas gifts are met with puzzled looks?

It really doesn't matter... because Christmas is more than those things. Christmas is He who is in our hearts! Yes. it. is. 

Belated Merry Christmas, friends, from our family to yours!
There is no need for more: the heart is full of gifts that is full of Christ.
~ Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift. 
God giving Himself to me - for me - a surrender of love. "Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are... a divine choice," writes Henri Nouwen. 
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!