It’s only eleven days until Christmas. I know this because my kids have been counting down for weeks. They have been telling me that once we reach ten days before Christmas then it will seem real: Christmas is almost here.
The presents are under the tree. We’re singing Christmas carols. Our beloved light up Rudolph is blinking his cheery red nose, and the baby is in the manger where He should be, laid out gently on the shabby-pretty dresser that I picked up at a local junk store. Everything is in order for a merry Christmas.
A few nights ago I was sleeping soundly when creaking boards in the hallway warned me that some shadowy figure was heading my way. I could see her gangly preteen silhouette in the doorway. Mama, she said tearfully, I had a bad dream.
I sat up sleepily and motioned for her to come to me, and she sat on my bed while I covered her with my blanket and my middle-of-the-night mama grace. What was it? I whispered.
She told me the story that her subconscious had dreamed up. How she was walking on a dirt road someplace when she saw two of them coming. ISIS. With nowhere to hide, she laid down and played dead. They approached her, two men with guns. Is this one dead yet? one man asked the other. They could see her breathing. No was the simple reply before they picked her up by her shirt collar and shot her on the spot.
The shot still rang in her terrified ears when she opened her eyes and felt relief that she was safely tucked into the top bunk, with her brother snoring comfortingly below. But, the horror of the scene still played in her head, and she made her way across creaking boards to my room, because mamas can usually manage to fix whatever ails you.
I patted her and hugged her and agreed that it was certainly a bad dream. And, in a few minutes I led her back to her bed, right past the baby in the manger so delicately displayed, as if He is breakable.
I wondered, as I covered her with a fluffy purple blanket, when Adelade’s visions of sugarplums turned into horror stories. I wondered how we got here, eleven days before Christmas, while peace is so painfully absent from this earth. I wondered what terror and death and evil and darkness have to do with the sweet scene of a tender baby sleeping on a bed of hay.
And, then I remembered.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.
We human beings, we just keep wandering. Feeling our way through the dark, wallowing in the evils that our hearts keep inventing. We run as far as we can, and we pretend we’re wise and enlightened. Everything inside of the human heart says no to God. Without that little baby, that dear, sweet manger child, there is simply no way to outrun the nightmares, to escape the terrors. The infant who looks so cheek-pinchable, so lacking in might and power– there He lays, on his adorable little bed of straw. We sing about Him and aww over His cute little swaddling, forgetting that He is the Lion of Judah. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We forget that He is the Beginning and the End. He came to seek and to save what was lost, and He will get what He came for.
We have lost so much. We are so much lost. But, lost things come together under the banner of Jesus Christ.
As I walked back from Adelade’s bedroom after tucking her in tight, I paused for just a moment to look at the little porcelain Jesus that sits in the center of our nativity scene. My first born child’s words came back to me: I laid down and played dead. And, I mourned for humanity. My spirit wailed for the children of this world whose reality is much closer to Adelade’s nightmare than not. So much lost. So much beauty. So much innocence. So much peace.
But, this precious little baby, this Mighty Warrior King, He came to fix all that. He came to seek and to save what was lost. Our hopeless hearts. Our stubborn, sinful souls. In Him, we are found. In the manger. At the cross.
It’s eleven days until Christmas. Soon it will be only ten. It seems real now, my children will say. And, I will look to my unbreakable Jesus, and I will agree. Yes. Yes it does.