This Christmas will be marked by a Target trip. I stand in the middle of the gift-wrap aisle beside a grandmotherly lady in a red pea coat who is trying to remember out loud whether her granddaughter would most like the pink bow or the light blue bow. She won’t even notice the bow, I think to myself. Cynicism is the language of hopelessness and I speak fluently without ever needing to hear myself out loud.
When she bustled away, deciding to buy both, I stood motionless in the aisle. Christmas comes and goes faster than my little brother can tear wrapping paper from a gift box – and you’ll just have to trust me when I say he’s the master of unwrapping gifts. The whole wide world, I think, breathes quickly around this time of year: rushing between parties and cookie swaps and stores in the mall and did-I-forget-something? and yes-I-forgot-the-sugar-cookies-of-course. In the middle of all the busyness, I’m standing in the smack-dab middle of a Target aisle asking myself did I forget something? Did I miss something important?
I can’t find pretty words to tell you why this Christmas is so loud, so fuzzy, so out-of-focus. I can just tell you that it is. Somewhere between a busy finals week and a long drive home, Christmas showed up. Christmas with its lights and pine trees and fuzzy socks and too many cookies and Christmas songs. (Those Christmas songs. They’ve got me feelin’ some type of way.)
Since I fell in love with Jesus, I’ve never had any trouble savoring this sweet season. It’s always just sort of happened. Every year, I’ve fallen in love with the weightiness of Advent and the celebration of Jesus’s lowly birth. Focus has been easy, a given, until this year when everything seems to be competing for my attention.
In John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, he writes, “Peter assumes that his Christian readers need to be wakened. I know I continually need awakening. Especially when Christmas approaches.”
I read that and my heart gets stuck on that little word “especially.” I assume Christmas should be easy, and I stop feeling the desperate need to be woken up from spiritual drowsiness.
A sweet friend of mine wrote in a card to me, “staying attentive this time of year is hard and holy work,” and I believe her. It was so easy for me to lose focus, to become enamored by the chaotic busyness, to find myself somewhere between distracted and exhausted but far from Jesus.
Hard and holy.
Tonight, I am sitting in a room lit up only by lights on a pine tree. The noise has quieted, the world is asleep, and I am waking up in time for Christmas.
Because when the world stopped paying attention, our God didn’t throw in the towel. He sent a thrill of hope to jolt a dying people awake from their sleep.
-Morgan Jackson // @morgantea