They say that the most glorious mess is the foot of the tree on Christmas Day.
But there are frank people who will just straight out tell you that the whole thing can be a bit of a mess.
The kids’ uncle lies in a hospital bed waiting for a surgeon to cut into his chest wall and slice a tumor out of the center of his heart. Lights twinkle in a Christmas tree across the street.
He asks the Farmer if we’ll take care of his kids if — yeah, if.
How do you finish a sentence like that? The Farmer and I lay awake holding hands.
The kids’ other uncle, he has a CAT scan booked for the end of next week but who really knows when there might be answers?
Or an end to the pain and the rattling of pill bottles and the indifferent bills. My mama, she keeps praying brave. There’s a ring of waxy grime around the waist of my sink. A kid lies. I can’t remember how to breathe. We’re 13 lessons behind in history. Family feuds aren’t games and estrangement can feel more like a long strangling. And the church asks if anyone can sign up to bring a couple of meals to a single mama of five who’s working overtime to have something left in the fridge.
Saying yes to bring her two 9 by 13s casseroles feels like pittance. What do you bring to someone who feels bone alone?
What if the tree needles just keep falling, everything fragile and fallen?
What if what you can’t say is that there’s a tumor in your heart that’s hurting for a Christmas miracle?
There’s Mary on the table.
There’s a swollen silhouette of a pregnant virgin in the middle of the table trying to make her way all around Advent to some kind of delivery.
And Malakai just keeps lighting the candles and I keep telling him it’s too early, as if we could make Advent come early, as if miracles might come already, if Jesus just might come now, and I get that — what else do we need?
There aren’t many who say it, but He did: “”You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed …” (Luke 10:42)
I keep sweeping needles clean off the floor.
Of all things, only one thing is needed.
“Does she goes this way, Mama? Or this way?” Shalom looks up from the carved silhouette.
“Malakai. No. more. playing. with. candles.” I pause the broom and Kai pulls his hand sheepish away from wax and Shalom holds up the wooden Mary on the donkey and asks again, “Which way does she go?”
“This way,” I murmur it — and point the impossibly weighted woman toward Christmas, toward the candle holders for every day of Advent that will take her round to when God comes down. And Jesus said that too in the end, in Revelations, that though they tried to do it all and know it all, they weren’t wooed at all: “nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
They didn’t lose it, they left it. They got turned around, they turned left instead of right, they departed from The Way.
Is that it? When we say we lost it, we’ve really left Him.
We don’t ever really “lose it” — we leave Him.
“She goes this way …. ” Shalom sing songs hope and moves the figure of Mary around the wooden advent wreath and I am thinking in the whirl of everything only one thing is needed.
Simply toward Him.
I lean the broom against the wall. And I kneel beside Shalom and she shuffles over to make room and wraps an arm around my neck. She lets me touch it, the figurine, the wood of that woman looking for her way through this Christmas.
And it comes, like a whisper of winter wind turning a weather vain:
Every Christmas miracle begins with a change of direction.
It feels like Someone’s blown clear a blocked passageway in my heart.
Turning toward Your first love makes everything turn out.
Because this is the only way to see that His love turns everything.
“Then she turns this direction,” Shalom turns the figurine of the outcasted woman around the wreath.
And this tilted world slants toward the monied big dogs — and our bending God leans toward the marred underdogs.
And all these Christmas pressures point to more needed things — and the Christmas Child opens arms and whispers One Thing is needed.
And into the middle of impossible messes — comes the Messiah who makes the miracles possible.
“Soon now, Mama?” Shalom looks up.
And I turn with this heart burning, the miracle already beginning.
Part 2: The Christmas Miracle He Won’t Withhold From Us