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Christmas Reflection

The Christmas season is upon us! We’re in the middle of a series on going deeper in our spiritual life, but we’re going to re-visit some stories and ideas of how the Christmas season can be a catalyst to bring you closer and deeper in your walk with God.

Join Julie Lyles Carr on this encouraging revisit to the true reason of Christmas, even in the middle of challenging and difficult times.

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The Christmas season is upon us. Can you even believe it? ? I can’t. I’m Julie Lyles Carr. You’re listening to the AllMomDoes podcast, part of the Purposely Podcast Network, and we are in a series on going deeper in your spiritual life. But we also wanted to create a little shout out and a little look backward, if you will into some of the Christmas devotionals that we’ve done in the past on the podcast. So I wanted to welcome you today to this little look back and some stories and ideas about how the Christmas season can also be a catalyst for taking you deeper and closer in your walk with God. Growing up Christmas, was it; the big game.

I was raised in a Christian home, but the [00:01:00] church I was raised in didn’t really celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus being the focus. The thought was this Jesus most likely was not born at this time of year, which to be fair is what most scholars tell us. Most historians believe that it was Constantine in the 300’s AD who transformed what had been a very popular Roman holiday season in December with

Saturnalia and with Juvenilia for the kiddos, that it was under his government and his young faith in God that he transitioned those Roman holidays into a celebration of the birth of the Christ child. So in the church of my childhood, because the Bible never specifically called for a celebration of the birth of Jesus and because it was something of a repurposed pagan Roman holiday, we mainly experienced Christmas through Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus and presence, and it was my dad actually who made it a tradition in our family to read through the account in Luke of the birth of Jesus having me, or one of my two younger brothers, [00:02:00] read it out loud as we gathered around the Christmas tree.

My youngest brother David, six years younger than me, put us all into silent giggles when for several years he earnestly and mistakenly read from the biblical record about Joseph’s exposed wife Mary instead of his espoused wife. Big difference. My parents put a lot of effort into making Christmas magical and fun, and my brothers and I were all in.

We couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve, at least it felt like we didn’t sleep. We lay in the doorways of our bedrooms along the same hall and feverishly whisper about what we thought would be under the tree and in our stockings the next morning, all the while listening with supersonic bat ears for any activity from the living room or for my parents’ footsteps.

We were angst ridden at possibly missing Santa’s appearance, and at the same time terrified we’d get caught by our parents out of our beds on the most critical night of the year for [00:03:00] staying off the naughty list. And once morning rolled around, we were giddy and sleep deprived and almost frenzied as we were released to sprint into our cool Southern California sunken living room and skin under the tree to our pile of presents.

My dad’s enormous deer headlamp of a camera light on his eight millimeter movie camera tracking our every move. My love for Christmas only grew through the years so much so that when my husband Michael and I got engaged, I was determined to have a Christmas wedding. Christmas trees, the whole thing. Green is my favorite color.

Christmas carols are my favorite songs. But then Michael and I ended up having a very complicated engagement, one that included a dramatic breakup and a tentative reunion. So eventually I gave up the idea of Christmas nuptials in favor of simply getting married to this guy of mine. And while the bridesmaid dresses were a Christmas screen, we got married in the heat of a relentlessly sunny summer day in August, in Texas decidedly, not [00:04:00] Noel.

Our first child ,Madison was born 15 months into our young marriage. During the week of Thanksgiving. It made Christmas just five weeks later, all the more special to have a tiny baby in the house during the holiday. The holiday in which we celebrate the good news of the birth of the Savior.

That first baby of ours is now a woman with a successful career in Chicago. And she has seven siblings. Christmas continues to be a big deal for all 10 of us, Michael, myself, our eight kids, definitely the favorite time of year with all the food, laughter, and magic of the season. Through the years, our family continued to grow, as did the scope and magic of the season.

There’s nothing like little kids in the house at Christmas, right? Full of all the emotions I remembered so well as a kid. The wonder, the nervousness, the questions, the excitement. It wasn’t just mine and Michael’s family that was growing. It was both sides of our extended families. And Christmas became this full on [00:05:00] massive reunion every year.

Michael and I were so blessed that both sides of our families all truly enjoyed each other and often celebrated the holidays together. . Those were noisy, busy, stressful, hilarious, sleep deprived years with the week after Christmas, feeling like a needed recovery lap. 

Even after Michael and I moved away from a lot of the extended family in a corporate relocation, we still made our way back every holiday season to Oklahoma to celebrate and to eat too many carbs and get too little sleep and get a little too stressed and laugh until tears round down our cheeks and usually have most of us come down with some kind of cousin virus that seem to make the rounds each year.

We’d somehow made the Christmas wonder of our childhoods continue to exist with all the original players all grown up. But we’ve also had some real heartbreaks during the Christmas season, things that seemed completely incongruent to mistletoe and candy canes. There was the early second trimester miscarriage I had several years ago, right after finishing up the [00:06:00] studio sessions for a Christmas album I did.

There were the years when it seemed like all the kids and Santa came down with a bad stomach bug. There was the year of a really bad ice storm that had everyone edgy and cold. And then there was the year we lost my dad in 2013, a week before Christmas Day. And since saying goodbye to him five years ago this Christmas, my adored father-in-law and mother-in-law have now both passed, and my mom is now in a memory care unit.

Things I never expected to have to deal with while still raising a young family in my mid-forties. Those Christmases past really are now in the past and we’re navigating a new normal as a family. I don’t bring this up to focus on the sad. It’s really about what do we do when all the promise of the season, the hot cocoa and the presence and the reunions, and the wonder doesn’t work out exactly like we planned.

There are people who say that Christmas can be one of the loneliest, most [00:07:00] isolating, most stressful seasons they experience. So how can we realign our hearts with what is most important on this day? See, I used to evaluate how successful Christmas was as a kid by which gifts I received off my list. And then as a mom, I evaluated how successful it was off of how surprised my kids were Christmas morning, and if I’d managed to get all my Christmas cards out in time, and if my Christmas day brisket made everyone swoon.

Successful Christmas had so much to do with experiencing it all as a fantastical, sparkling, magical brand that we love to think is achievable and that we propagate through all our Christmas movie specials and imaging with all the circumstances lining up just so the neat porcelain houses and a miniature Christmas village.

But from those things that have shown up in the Christmas season that didn’t seem to fit those losses, those disappointments, those inconvenient reminders of mortality, the Christmas story has become far more precious [00:08:00] and far more layered. Yes, it’s about a Messiah being born, specifically being born into difficult circumstances to reconcile us to God.

We can still celebrate Christmas in the midst of dark days because of the hope that the birth of that baby long ago brings us. Jesus was born into circumstances that were far less than ideal, an out of wedlock pregnancy, a journey over tough terrain to fulfill the requirements of an unreasonable government, a birth away from the familiar away from home in the backyard barn of a motel that was full up.

Those circumstances were all about what didn’t fit into a successful, air quotes, birth story. But the circumstances don’t dictate the success, the true success of the Christmas story. The day after my dad passed, I found myself frantically running funeral [00:09:00] errands, trying to find items we were going to need for his memorial service.

I was in such a daze, and I realized with a jolt standing in the aisle of a store that Christmas music was playing over the speaker system. Why on earth were they playing Christmas music in this store as I was running errands for my dad’s funeral? And then I had a further jolt as it dawned on me that they were playing Christmas music because it was Christmas.

At my dad’s funeral, there were poinsettias everywhere. The casseroles and meals people were graciously bringing us were served on cheery holiday platters. It felt surreal. All the garish Christmas paraphernalia in full force as we said goodbye to my daddy. But that’s when the Christmas miracle happened.

After my dad’s funeral, after a day of sorting through the paperwork and details we needed to complete, we all gathered at my brother’s house and we had Christmas. We read the [00:10:00] Christmas story just like my dad always had us do. We opened gifts, we ate, we laughed. We did Christmas. I don’t know how but I do know how.

Because Jesus is our hope. We focus on the details of what we know about the birth of Jesus, and they are compelling and beautiful. His mother Mary, full of faith in the face of an unprecedented pregnancy, his adoptive father, dreaming angel dreams and keeping Mary at his side. The sold out in the rough, stable, the birth, the manger, the shepherds who first received the news of Jesus’ birth, the wise men who traveled under his star.

That beautiful story carried in the lyrics of our carols. We have that cutesy saying about Christmas where we say that Jesus is the reason for the season. But really he’s the reason for every season. The pleasant seasons, the seasons where things go our way, and the seasons, even in the Christmas season when they [00:11:00] don’t. Just like that first Christmas, that is the Christmas miracle.

Even when the circumstances are sideways, there is still reason to rejoice. Even when it feels like the deck is stacked against us. There is still good news. Even when the Christmas ham gets burned, the flights get delayed, the prodigal family member doesn’t show up. The Christmas story is about a baby who came to lift us above all of that. 

That’s a successful Christmas. So today, if it’s all gone the way you dreamed when you were planning and preparing and purchasing, I’m thrilled for you. And if this Christmas has gone completely sideways, I’m pulling for you. In all of it, know this. By God’s power, you can still celebrate the meaning of the day that there is an antidote for mortality, for darkness, for sin, for loss, for failure. 

His name is [00:12:00] Jesus, and any day that you can remember him and his love for you brings you true success over whatever you face. That’s the Christmas miracle, that the day’s details don’t matter. In the light of the savior’s love. May that carry you whether you feel like you crushed Christmas like a boss mom, or if you feel like it crushed you.

Embrace the Christmas miracle that we are more than this life. We are more than conquerors, and we can stand blameless before God because he sent his son into unsuccessful circumstances to rise above and raise us from the grave. Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and from all of us here at AllMomDoes.

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