Note from Ann: Christmas is such a joyful, stressful time of the year, and I’m so touched by how Janie encourages each of us to find the “true heart of Christmas.” I pray that each of you will find hope in her words, as I do! ~ Ann

Christmas can be a mixed bag for everyone, but particularly for the women of the household. In case you haven’t noticed, it is usually the women in the family who make Christmas happen!  We are the ones who generally oversee the decorating, the purchasing and wrapping of gifts to put under the tree, the cooking, and the hospitality.

Needless to say, all the heart-warming comfies of a Norman Rockwell Christmas that everyone has come to expect usually comes from Mom. And it’s Mom, of course, who is exhausted when all of the torn wrappings lie around the messy house after it is all over!

We get so worried and stressed at Christmas, but here's a reminder about the true heart of Christmas and how God gave it to me as a gift.

Something is wrong with this picture!   

Yep. When Fall rolls around, even now, I tend to think of it with a bit of a sigh: “Oh, the holidays are coming…”,  because I know the work that it entails for me.

Can anyone else relate?

I still feel that way a little—even with an attitude adjustment that took place quite a few years ago when I received a message from above that was my greatest Christmas GIFT ever.  It came in a very mysterious package—and not one that I necessarily wanted!

I was a young mother with my firstborn son, Luke. He was a toddler and  so was our fledgling new church in Wellington, Florida, the Wellington Presbyterian Church.

I decided to host our first annual ladies’ Christmas Tea in our home for the women in our church. I had never had a Christmas Tea before, so  I figured it all out as I went along  … busily preparing with visions of Christmas perfection in my head.

I saw a beautifully decorated home (on a limited budget), delicious homemade Christmas treats (all prepared by me as a gift to the ladies), and an inspiring program and message for the ladies (given by me, of course).

Anyone noticing a pattern here?

So on I worked. The day before the Tea, I began to feel guilty that my little “Lukey” needed some focused attention and fun. So I packed him up and headed to the nearby neighborhood pool. This was South Florida after all, and no winter wonderland was in sight!

We waded into the water and I held him while he paddled around. The sun could not have been brighter or the air warmer.

Until it wasn’t. Suddenly, as can happen in South Florida, the sky darkened as the the sun became hidden by clouds that rolled in like a locomotive. The air turned cooler and the wind kicked up.

Much to my shock, Luke started to cough.  Naturally, I took him quickly out of the water, wrapped him into a blanket and headed back for the condo.

Within a few hours, the cough had turned into a full-blown asthma attack. Don and I rushed him to the ER at the hospital where he had been born less than a year earlier.

Hours later, we headed home with Luke snuggled in his car seat breathing much more naturally, and I held a bag full of meds to keep him on the road to full health.

It was after midnight. I was exhausted and now hours behind in my preparations for the Tea to happen the very next day.

However, my son was “saved” from a potentially life-threatening disease that we have continued to manage all of his life.

I remember the shock I felt as I sat quietly in his rocking chair in the wee hours of the morning.

Why this?  Why now? 

“Lord Jesus,” I prayed, “what do I do?”

We get so worried and stressed at Christmas, but here's a reminder about the true heart of Christmas and how God gave it to me as a gift.

I wondered if I should cancel the Tea … but how would I get the news out? (These were the days before texting!) How can I possibly be ready?  And what if Luke’s condition worsened?

What a mess!  Christmas joy was drained from my soul.

Then, I heard the words: This is Christmas. 

My weary brain struggled to focus. In the fog, I saw Mary traveling on a donkey nine months pregnant. I felt her discomfort, exhaustion, and her anxiety.

I saw Joseph’s slumped shoulders as he led the donkey. It was dark. The path ahead was unclear even though the destination was Bethlehem.

to-bethlehem

The angels were not singing. They were alone on their journey.

I saw Christmas …  for the first time  …  and I joined Mary and Joseph there.  It is still where I go year after year after year when I forget all over again and get caught up in the “shoulds” of the season.

Joy welled up in my soul that cannot be described in words. Real joy—warm, alive, energizing.

I don’t remember ever going to bed that night. Luke slept peacefully and deeply. When the women arrived, the house glowed with something that cookies and bows and bells cannot give.

Somehow I ready enough. It was bright enough. There was plenty to eat.

We were nourished by the life of Christ in our midst. At the appropriate time, I stood to deliver the same simple Christmas message that had been given to me.  I gave the women the GIFT that I had received.

I had found the true heart of Christmas. 

christmassg

So, my friends, I want to encourage you to know . . .

  • … Christmas is found in the rough edges of your life . . . as you let the loving Spirit of God come and comfort you with His presence.
  • … Christmas is messy love.
  • … Christmas trusts when the road is dark and lonely.
  • … Christmas is the willingness to wait for angels to sing.
  • … Christmas is poor shepherds who tend their flocks on the rough terrain.
  • … Christmas is not comfy; Christmas is His coming …  to the least of these.

He comes …  hallelujah!

Look for Him!

Be the servant. Be the least. Be.

He is with you!

In closing, I would like to share a poem I wrote years later.  

my-soul-your-manger

Come, Holy Spirit, wondrous Dove,

fluid radiance, fall from above;

Flood my manger with Your holy light,

presence of God on this cold, dark night.

Come and dwell in union with me,

though I unworthy and empty be . . .

Warm my veins with Your holy love,

that I may bear Your Son from above.

Prince of Peace, come dwell with me,

Abba’s heart, my manger be!

(Janie Seltzer)

May your heart be a manger for His love. Emmanuel, God with us! 

How have you found the true heart of Christmas in your life?