I love the beauty of the Christmas season. I always want to pause and simply enjoy it. Do you know those Hallmark Christmas movies where everything is perfect? This time of year, I dream of having a Hallmark life—one with no problems or chaos. I’d like s’mores around the fireplace, music playing while everyone decorates the tree, and friends clinking glasses around a table full of food. I want that perfection, especially at Christmas.
The reality is, life doesn’t pause and suddenly become perfect for a holiday season.
Honestly, this past year has been difficult for me and one that has looked nothing like a Hallmark movie. It was a year where I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath before the next wave of difficulty hit. My husband and I had a dear friend who passed away. He was in his thirties, when people aren’t “supposed” to die. We walked through some marriage difficulties. Our son was diagnosed with dyslexia and is behind in reading. Our other son was having some behavioral issues at school and it felt like the principal had our phone number on speed dial. Also, I work in healthcare, so the shortage of medical professionals has made me weary this year. Then just this week our son had surgery and broke his arm.
I mean, who doesn’t want to see a nice, perfect family in a Christmas movie? You know what you wouldn’t want to see in that movie? My son mooning his bus driver prompting another speed dial call from the principal. Or that same son bouncing off his brother who was on a big exercise ball, in turn bouncing himself backward which caused the broken arm I mentioned earlier. All truth. That Christmas movie would be more of a reality show!
I remember lying in bed one night after a meeting with my boys’ teachers. I just prayed and asked God for “normal” boys and a “normal” life. I was asking God to take away the dyslexia, to take away the behavioral issues, to take away the messiness of marriage, and to put out a few fires I felt were getting out of control in my life.
And then the Holy Spirit reminded me of Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I remember God impressing on me that taking the mess and chaos away to arrive at “normal” isn’t the point. I remember Him telling me that He’s actually in the mess. He’s in the chaos. He’s in the fires. He sees me and meets me in the dyslexia diagnosis and the vision therapy required for it. He meets me in the principal’s office and in each call from the boys’ teachers. He’s in the muddled marriage. The beauty doesn’t appear when the mess is taken away but it’s apparent in the way Jesus shows up smack dab in the middle of the mess with us. We don’t have to clean up or escape the messes we find ourselves in—Jesus encounters us in the middle of them. Now that’s beauty.
God tells us to, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10). Our Father wouldn’t tell us not to fear or be dismayed if life was meant to be as perfect as those Hallmark movies. He wouldn’t tell us He’d bring strength to uphold us during those hard times if He wasn’t a God who meets us in the midst of the mess. One of my favorite songs that I sang on repeat during this past year was, “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns. A few lyrics from the song say:
“And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands.”
Beauty with the ashes. I can get on board with that.
Isn’t that what happened at the first Christmas? Jesus could have been born to a married couple with an established life and a large house. Instead, He arrived in the middle of what appeared to be a mess of a situation. He was born to an unwed woman, with an entire community looking at Joseph in judgment. Jesus wasn’t born during a steady and stable time in his parents’ lives; instead, they had to travel across the countryside for a census. Jesus wasn’t even born in a home, as was the custom, but in a barn with animals surrounding Him. Talk about chaos. But Jesus didn’t care; He was coming to be the calm in the storm. He was coming to be the beauty amidst the chaos and mess. He was here to steady the ship that was unsteady.
This past year has taught me just that, and what better way to culminate a hard year than with Christmas. I’m ending a difficult and heavy year with a story that’s better than any scene in a Hallmark movie. Jesus is here. Jesus is born. He has entered my life. He’s here to meet me in my mess and in the chaos of life. There’s real beauty in the disarray of life solely because Jesus is entering my storm instead of removing me from it.
I think that is where the beauty in the mess is. It’s seeing Jesus in our marriage, even when our marriage is hard. It’s seeing Jesus in our parenting, even when our kids aren’t living up to their potential. It’s seeing Jesus in our work, even when our jobs feel mundane or wearying. “’The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means God with us)” (Matt. 1:23 NIV). When we know Jesus, we have God with us. That’s Christmas. I’m no longer waiting for Jesus to rescue me and take me out of the storms, but I am absolutely anticipating Him showing up in the midst of them.
Luke 2:10 says, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” It’s for all of us. Whether your year was heavy or your burdens were light, Jesus is born to meet you in that place. He comes to meet us in the chaos and mess and make it beautiful.
Now that’s a Christmas movie worthy of our praise!
Heyo! My name is Chelsea. I am a wife of twenty years and a mom of two boys.
I do anesthesia by day and I am a full-time boy mom at night. I enjoy writing about real life: the mess, the redemption, and everything in between. On any given day, you can find me dirt biking, four-wheeling, or watching a hockey game in Minnesota where we live.
Our family motto is learning to live life with a longer table and a shorter fence. In real life, that looks like opening our home to junior hockey players and doing life alongside them. And it looks like mentoring birth moms and giving back to that brave group of women.
Some of my passions are marriage, parenting, and adoption. They can all truly be messy topics at times, but they are areas where I’ve seen the Lord pour out His grace firsthand.
I am along for the ride of life with you. I just happen to write about it as I go.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
“Just Be Held,” on Casting Crowns, Thrive, Beach Street and Reunion Records, 2014.