At Christmastime, I’m always baffled at the phrase “getting through the holidays.” What is there to “get through”? Days full of anticipation and waiting for wonderful things to happen? Songs about joy and peace and love and miracles? Party after party with family and friends, where, even if there is tension, interesting things happen—things worth talking about and thinking about, sometimes for years after? What’s not to like?

I even thought this as I was trying to get out the door the other day—one of the most unpleasant daily happenings when you are a mom of little ones in a midwest winter. 6 shoes, 3 coats, and this time 2 bags of presents, and a girl who is very tantrummy. As Vivvi was wailing and flailing about, I thought, Christmas is lovely. It makes the daily garbage of life more beautiful. When this happens in January and February, it might just be daily garbage. But for this season, it is cast under sparkly lights that make it easier to look at. It all smells like pine needles, even if just for the season.

Part of what I love about Christmas is Santa. I love Santa. I love that my parents worked so hard to stir up my excitement for him—that they made him so real for me—that I still believe. I love that he is about magic and spirit and generosity. I love his clean white beard and his jolly ole face and his laugh. And I love that he’s fat. His jelly belly. That’s just funny.

My favorite thing about Christmas, though, is the Christmas story. No, not the Shoot Your Eye Out variety, although I do have my share of love for Ralphie and his whiny brother. I love the Bethlehem miracle. The reason for the season. The Lo and Behold and No Room and Fear Not story. The best birth story ever told.

I’ve always gotten that story—the scene is set so well. The starry night, and the smelly shepherds, and that rascally innkeeper. And oh, the humbleness of it all! The little town, the rickety stable, the swaddling cloths, and the overburdened, sturdy little donkey.

But when I had my kids, the story’s meaning and nuances were amplified. When your own child is born, you witness a small part of that miracle. A human being grew inside of you and is suddenly in your arms. You meet this child—you look into that little face, and you say, “There you are!” Other than the initial act and then waddling around for a few months, you had very little to do with the baby going from nothing to something. It is an incredible miracle that this tiny human exists. You feel like the skies could rip open any minute and angels could appear.

And with Baby Jesus’s story, there wasn’t even the initial act. And here he is, away in a manger with no crib. Here is Mary, exhausted, and Joseph, relieved that the baby has safely made it here, and here are the animals, mooing and baaing and sighing and snorting and sleeping. I can just imagine Mary studying that little face—if you are a mother, you know what it feels like to hold that little person, one of the newest living things on the planet. And in this story, the sky does rip open, and the angels are so scary that they have to lead with “Fear not!” (“Yeah, right!” those smelly shepherds think.) And then these exotic three guys on camels show up twelve days later from field and fountain moor and mountain, and they found their way because of the spotlight cast on earth by one amazing star.

Jesus is better than Santa—so much better. Because he started it all, but mostly because of his gift of grace. The fat man gives if you’re nice, but Jesus doesn’t care if you are naughty or nice. He gives no matter what.

What an amazing birth story. No wonder we sing songs about it to this day. No wonder we hang shiny lights and get together and give gifts and celebrate. Let’s do more than get through, okay? Let’s celebrate! Let’s ponder the day that grace started it’s journey on earth. The day that love appeared. The most wonderful day of the year! Merry Christmas!

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