It’s Christmas Eve morning here in Mississippi. The pinnacle of the days leading up to Christmas. Christmas week is always special, yet there is a bit of little girl left in me that longs for these “magical” days to feel the same as they did when I was 7. But lo, we grow up. Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and even real-life people lead us to believe that Christmastime (and life in general) can be right up close to perfect if we had that house or this job or those kids or that spouse or these talents or gifts. Liars. Christmastime can be a pressure-cooker for “creating the magic, making lasting family memories, and setting the perfect Pinterest table.” Jesus gets thrown out with the bath water.
Our memory-making family time got interrupted pretty abruptly last night. We loaded up to go look at Christmas lights around Oxford. Fun,
Instagram-photo-opp, obligatory Christmas activity. 20 minutes in, we had stopped the car in the Tri-Delt House parking lot, taken away all electronics from the kids til they graduate, and sufficiently ruined any magical, memory-making mood we’d dreamed of an hour earlier. Christmas Hissy Fit begins. Pulling into the driveway, slamming car doors for good measure, I felt defeated, frustrated, and like a fraud. Indeed, without Him, I am all of those things. But Christ…
I read the following just yesterday. It is out of Paul Miller’s A Praying Life and quotes John of Landsburg’s (a sixteenth-century Catholic monk), “A Letter from Jesus Christ.” He is imagining Christ speaking personally to us:
“I know those moods when you sit there utterly alone, pining, eaten up with unhappiness, in a pure state of grief. You don’t move towards me but desperately imagine that everything you have ever done has been utterly lost and forgotten. This near-despair and self-pity are actually a form of pride. What you think was a state of absolute security from which you’ve fallen was really trusting too much in your own strength and ability…what really ails you is that things simply haven’t happened as you expected and wanted.
In fact I don’t want you to rely on your own strength and abilities and plans, but to distrust them and to distrust yourself, and to trust me and no one and nothing else. As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief. You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of me. You may hope and trust in me absolutely. My mercy is infinite.”
Christ’s Truth endures the centuries and was the same for a Catholic monk in the 1400’s and a Mississippi mom in 2014. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The reason we celebrate Christmas is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God’s mercy and love and grace and pursuit of us is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What a relief.
As I write this post, the phrase “Not I, but Christ” floods my mind over and over. I googled it to make sure I wasn’t just making it up. It’s from Galations 2:20. (Don’t you love how when His Truth is buried so deep in our souls that it just appears out of nowhere when we need it most?) I stumbled upon a beautiful hymn, and again, voices from long ago couldn’t say it better. Written in 1891 by a woman named Ada Whiddington. I wonder what life circumstances led her to pen the very words that I can relate to perfectly 125 years later, raising kids and living a comfortable suburban life in Oxford, Mississippi. The heart cries of all who love Jesus are the very same yesterday, today, and forever.
Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ, be seen be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.
O to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
O to be lost in Thee,
O that it might be no more I,
But Christ, that lives in me.
Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow,
Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;
Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden,
Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.
Not I, but Christ, in lowly silent labor;
Not I, but Christ, in humble, earnest toil;
Christ, only Christ! No show, no ostentation;
Christ, none but Christ, the gath’rer of the spoil.
Christ, only Christ! no idle words e’er falling,
Christ, only Christ; no needless bustling sound;
Christ, only Christ; no self important bearing;
Christ, only Christ; no trace of
I be found.
Not I, but Christ, my every need supplying,
Not I, but Christ, my strength and health to be;
Not I, but Christ, for body, soul, and spirit,
Christ, only Christ, here and eternally.
Christ, only Christ, ere long will fill my vision;
Glory excelling soon, full soon I’ll see—
Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling—
Christ, only Christ, my all in all to be.
Merry Christmas, friends. I pray for my readers, I really do. For whatever place you find yourself in this Christmas, I pray you will lean in to the One who we can trust and put our hope in.