The kid’s got no idea that the world’s been kinda blowing up lately with all the things.
He just rolls out of bed when his dad crows like a strangling rooster from the top of the stairs every morning, grabs his jeans, shimmies a shirt over his head and stumbles to the barn to feed his sows.
Half the time the kid comes in from the barn smelling like a pig.
Because that’s the half of the time he lets the barn shower run for a whole 3 seconds and he never even reaches for the shampoo.
That would also be the same half of the time that I send him back to that barn shower.
And make no bones that the water has to run for 5 minutes and the kid better figure out that life is about knowing when to lather up — and when it ain’t worth your time to get all lathered up about all the things.
The kid may pay no mind to any stirred up stink, but you better believe he makes sure he knows about things like when they’re calling for snow in these parts and how to sharpen the rusted blade of a saw to take back to the woods to hack down some sad looking cedars and what pocket he’s got that Red Swiss Army contraption of his that would bust you out of any Houdini nightmare and the kid comes to me the other night because he says he’s sure of this:
“You know what I’ve been praying about, Mom?”
The boy is standing in the evening living room, his face lit by the brave glow of the Christmas tree.
“I’ve been praying about it for awhile now,” he stuffs his hands in his pockets, his head down. “That I’d be one of the ones that lay my life down. And thinking there are a lot of ways to lay your life down.”
He looks up at me.
None of us knew what he’d be diagnosed with only a handful of days after Christmas.“Fear’s an ugly thing and why wouldn’t you lay down your life rather than be poisoned by fear to hold on to your life?”
Whadya say to the kid standing there in the light of a Christmas tree? I wanna grab him, pull him in close…
Wanna bury my face in his mop of hair and what do you say to fears that loom over Christmas, what to you say to the latest breaking news that shouts louder than the news of Advent breaking in, what do you say to the rising anger in the streets instead of a rising chorus of Christmas carols out on the street corners? Joy to the World…. Let heaven and nature sing….
I’m standing there looking into the eyes of this boy looking right into me — having no idea what the doctor would say to him in a few weeks.
The boy’s telling me that he’s been praying for a way to lay down his life.
What happens when you pray to lay down your life with a welcome larger than weapons, with an incarnational hope larger than any imagined hells, with a brave faith larger than any beastly fears?
Does the kid have any idea? We had no idea. No idea what was just around the corner — but we would look back and never forget how he kept saying it for weeks — how he wanted to fearlessly live like a living sacrifice.
Does the kid know that the hawkers out on the street corners keep lathering folks up because they know it: Fear Sells.
And The Maker of the universe knows it since He breathed it into the atmosphere: Faith Saves.
Fear is what’s at the base of all our debates.
Fear Of Missing Out is what drives all our consumerism.
Fear of losing is what’s actually making us lose the most.Unless we let Love drive out fear — our fears will drive out Love.
But the kid knows it, because that’s we do here through Advent — Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and purposing not to be undone by any news cycle or fear mongers or fear of the future:
Fear Sells —- but there is a Story that Saves the world.
Fear may sell policies or garner votes or hawk hardware — but there is a Story that literally Saves.
So the kid cuts out ornaments that tells The Full Love Story of Christmas from the beginning ….
That tells the Full Love Story of Christmas of the Coming across the waters, the deep calling to deep.
The Coming of glory through the drought of the wilderness wanderings.
The Coming of relief up through all our failings and fallings and skinned kneed impossibles — the kid’s coming into a Braver and Truer Story than anything that’s being sold at half price at Walmart or being hashed out by all the pundits on the 6 o’clock news.
The kid’s keeping his story straight because he’s staying in the gospel truth Story — no matter how loud any of the noise gets he’s staying in the story that says Jesus has been coming since the beginning for everyone, the story that says Jesus is chasing down every person on the planet with His love —
and He invites us into the Full and Realest Love Story if we’re willing to let Perfect Love kick all Poisoning Fear to the curb.
The kid’s cutting out ornaments to tell the Story —
To tell the Story that has but one line repeating agin and again, more than any other line, a line like it’s own refrain in the midst of a world where all our natures refuse to sing: “Do not be afraid.”
It doesn’t matter what fear the world’s selling. The only Story that matters keeps repeating it: Do Not Be Afraid.
Do not be afraid of the unknown when you know the One who does the impossible.
Do not be afraid of what could fail when His arms are stronger than any failure & He cannot fail or let you fall.
And do not be afraid of any evil because greater is He who is in the depths of you and breathing the wild courage to love right into your bones.
Do not ever be afraid of suffering because suffering can birth a greater resurrection.
Do not be afraid of laying your life down in a thousand ways because this is the only way to ever rise.
Little did we know how we’d desperately need to know exactly all this when we’d sit with the boy in ER just over a week after Christmas.
But in that moment, the boy looks over at me and, just for a moment, just the way he turns, the way he says it, he doesn’t sound like a kid:
“You know, Mom —- I don’t think that He was playing when He said: ‘Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”
I nod slow, fighting back this blurring and brimming. I would remember this moment later, remember this always.
I want to tell the kid that — but I think this is what he already knows because it’s the gospel truth of The Whole Read Story we’re staying in this Advent:
When you hold bravery in one hand and vulnerability in the other, you hold wholeness. The wholeness of true humanity.
It would turn out — that the boy would be so brave, so vulnerable.
Because he knew the Whole Story: The Truth and Real Strength came into a violent world as the most vulnerable — as a scandalously gentle baby.
Jesus came as a vulnerable baby into a scuffling, warring world — so no one was intimidated, so all could come close, so no one was discounted, so all could hold Him & feel the way His backbone curved.
Backbone that has real strength like God’s — bends to lay down your life for those who don’t love you at all.
The essence of true humanity is to let the backbone curve low, and hold vulnerability in one hand, and bravery in the other.
Because this is essentially all the same thing.
The kid’s take the ornament of a great light rising in the darkness, takes it in hand and hangs it on the Christmas tree.
Because the boy knows that the uncontainable God who cracked an amniotic sac and swam a birth canal to get to us would one day hang naked vulnerable from a tree, the epitome of brave — the way the bravery of vulnerability always shatters the dark.
Advent is about the coming of God — and the end of fear.
I didn’t know how desperately I would need to know the Whole Full Love Story — that moment we would get the boy’s diagnosis — how I would need to let that Full Love Story hold me:
When His love wins you over — no fears can pull you under.
When the doctor would stand a few weeks later by the Christmas lights in ER and tell the Farmer and I that our boy had Type 1 Diabetes, that our boy would need to inject himself with insulin 4-6 times a day for the rest of his life to stay alive, I would remember how our son had turned at the Tree, ornament in hand, and became more of a man when he said that one line to his old mama:
“Nothing, Mom, nothing —-is going to stop me from praying for ways to be a living sacrifice.”
I hadn’t known right then — how our boy would get to daily carry a cross of his own to make much of the sacrifice of Christ, that would say the love of Christ is enough, that would daily give him a chance to surrender his dreams to the perfect will and ways of God.
I hadn’t fully known right then how we who have been grafted into the story of Christ’s Family Tree — would get this chance to now live out this Story that saves us from bitterness, how we’d get to stay in the Story that saves us from meaninglessness, that saves us to tell a story of His always all-sufficiency.
All I knew, in that moment, was that our choosing every Advent to stay in The Real Story that Saves — it blows all fear of the coming unknown apart.
And there’s this shimmer of holy things coruscating around us like the wings of a brazen glory.
The way hearts who know the whole story can always open brave.
And have a STRESS-FREE, HOPE-FULL Christmas.
So come Christmas morning — you’ve unwrapped the greatest gift you yearn for — more of Him — and the gift you will need for the rest of the year.
Gather around the Greatest Story this year for the whole family with all 3?
The Greatest Gift (adult edition),
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (family read aloud edition),
and The Wonder of the Greatest Gift (pop-up edition with your own 14 inch tree, 25 days of readings, 25 day advent flap calendar, hiding all 25 Biblically inspired ornaments! For any age)
So you don’t miss out on Jesus this year & the The Greatest Christmas.