For years I have been on a journey of downward mobility, trying to create a simple life in the midst of raising four children in Orange County. I had been thinking about these truths for a long time, punctuated each year at Christmas when I began to wonder if my children really celebrated Jesus at all in the midst of celebrating their Christmas wish list. Everyday life as we know it as an American equates with “consume and be happy”. Christmas becomes a heightened version of this wrapped up as “buy for others extravagantly to demonstrate extravagant love”. But are we still buying this?
Don’t miss this! I am all for celebrating and eating and gift giving. But where was Jesus even invited to bring joy to my world? I was trying to do that on my own while Jesus simply became the background music, the joyful carols that played in Toys R Us while I pondered the deep questions of Christmas life: Star Wars Legos or Ninjago? Barbies or Craft Sets?
So this year I asked for God to help me. How could I create an environment where my children would actually prepare room for Jesus? How could we ignore the pulsing push and pull towards excessive consuming and indulging and instead have a peaceful Christmas season where Christ could come and let us adore Him?
God answered just a week before Christmas by having my husband lose his job. His well paying job. The job that provided just-to-the-penny for our lifestyle. No severance, no liquid savings. In that moment of fear, came the reminder that I been prepared for this with my dangerous prayer: whatever it takes, whatever You need to do, make room for yourself Jesus.
Over the next 30 days our family center transformed dramatically. We became mindful of the lack of money, of course, but we also became increasingly grateful of the gift of an increase in time together. For 12 years with rare breaks, my husband had come home between 9 and 11 pm each evening. In 3o days, we had dinner together every single night. Jesus entered in to this time and reminded us that the gift of being present is a rare and precious gift that means more to our souls than any present we can unwrap. I watched Jesus enter into our marriage through the gift of time and serving one another and simple gratitude. Elaborate meals that I had prepared (remember, I am married to the chef with four foodie children) now made way for simple groceries based on what was on sale. We had started growing lettuce in our little garden patch and that was the only vegetable at the table some nights. We became aware of how precious each bite of food could be.
This was not the gift I’d imagined unwrapping, but God gifted me with deepest desire of my heart- a season spent pressed into the heart of Jesus, celebrating His birthday in a way felt more loving and aligned with His character and humble birth. Gods sacrificial gift jumped into our humanity and humility, into our shattered dreams, into the lives of our family that was going to experience for the first time, the miracle of Christmas.
But God was generous beyond what we could imagine or ask with His Christmas gifts to us:
- God provided financial grace with our housing. Shelter is a gift.
- God provided an immediate job for my husband (at half the pay but brings him home to us every night-unlike his jobs of the last 12 years)…. Employment is a gift.
- God put on somebody’s heart to anonymously pay one-month’s tuition for my three children! Who are you, angel of generosity?
- God provided for our two car payments to be paid on time through another generous gift. Cars are a gift.
- Our brakes needed to be repaired and everything was under warranty. Brakes are a gift.
- God allowed us to find unused gift cards and all sorts of creative ways to still give my children and family a few nice gifts for Christmas.
- Someone offered tp pay our utility bills. Heat and electricity is a gift.
- While ordering cleaning supplies online I discovered a credit that I never utilized and received a month of free products. Cleaning is now a gift.
- The same day our water bill was due, I received the exact amount from a check from a friend who lives far away. Water is a gift.
- A group of long time friends who meet regularly to pray and care for each other allowed us to join them for this tender season of transition. A gift of mercy and compassion with voices, hands, eyes, and their presence.
In this humble humble season of financial scarcity, I treasure these gifts, knowing that all I really wanted for Christmas, and all I want for my family, is Jesus with skin on. Jesus comes in His fullness, in His Spirit, in His word and in His timing.
Just last night people (or angels) anonymously left us a porch full of groceries and thick piles of gift cards for gas and food and cash. So now in this Valentine season where American culture will market to our senses and entice us to show love through jewelry and cupcakes, I am reminded again through a discipline of humility, to simply make room for God to continue to reveal Himself as the essence of true love.
Thank you God. Thank you People of God.