Originally posted at SheLoves Magazine.
I was 13 years old when I celebrated my very first Christmas.
It. Was. Magical.
That year, for the first time ever, I didn’t feel like a complete outsider at school when I returned from winter break.
And all the Christmases that have followed have surprised me with how much wonder can be packed into such a short season. Carols and hymns, ornaments and angels, stockings and ribbon.
Before that year I was entrenched in a religion without traditional holidays and a figurehead, instead of a messiah. We didn’t know the gracious God that became flesh, but a God to fear, a creator of shame and separation.
When you spend the better portion of your childhood without Christmas there are pieces of that odd sparkly puzzle that don’t make a lot of sense, so we made up our own rules. My sisters lead the way—they’d been shamelessly celebrating Christmas since moving away from home—and that first Christmas was funny. Eleven of us packed into my sister’s apartment to rebel and celebrate over card games and savory foods. It felt selfish to be enjoying myself so much. But I did it anyway.
And in the midst of so many ribbons and full bellies, I discovered my favorite part of the season—the anticipation of the Messiah with all his glory stripped away and landing in the mud pit as a fat, helpless baby.
I love the retelling of the birth story of God incarnate. To know he was probably ugly crying and covered in vernix and hopelessly helpless and miraculously still the Messiah. There’s something so deliciously tangible about God with skin on.
I’d love to say that’s what Christmas became for us. I’d love to say that my brothers and sisters gather to celebrate Jesus. But with my clan, Christmas is about family. It’s about spending time and giving generously and discovering how long we can all be in the same room before someone starts shouting.
It’s about crafting gifts with so much care that Joanna cries and Adina can’t stop grinning. It’s about assigning foods so Jennifer knows there’s a plan. It’s about my brothers leading Christmas carols and making sure there are batteries for the new toys.
It used to make my brother crazy that Christmas wasn’t focused on CHRIST. (He’s the preacher/missionary of the clan.)
But you know what? Our version of Christmas doesn’t bother me. It seems like the weirdos in my family are just the type that Jesus would have enjoyed a meal with. And every Christmas season I sit around with my family and I am enamored with a God that put skin on and spent his days with people who didn’t really know what they were doing.
So this year as I light advent candles and anticipate the coming of the Messiah again, I also look forward with anticipation to the warmth of my sisters’ smiles and the sound of laughter and crumpled wrapping paper.