It is no mistake we see such extremes at the manger – the wealth and nobility of Wise Men, and the poverty and humility of Shepherds. With each passing year, it really is no different for us today.
Sometimes we come to the manger as Kings, and sometimes we come as Outcasts.
Ten years ago this week we lost our first child. In a mess of brokenness we ran home to Chicago for Christmas, and ran toward a church where no one knew who we were, and no one would notice the sorrow spilling over our hearts. We came to the manger that year ragged and empty, to marvel at the Babe given to us, and weep for the one that was taken away.
With our hearts broken and bleeding out, and the happiness zapped from our holiday –
In our pain, and confusion, and the inability to bring anything to Jesus but an ocean of sorrow –
With the world as dark and hard as we’d ever lived it, filled with shattered dreams and dead things –
There was still Jesus.
God’s precious gift of love, still come. Still for me.
Every other year I came to the manger like the Kings, with something in my hands. Something to offer. Something to contribute. But that year, I had nothing but emptiness and brokenness sitting beside me in the dark rows of a Christmas Eve service. I was a stranger who was wounded and hiding, and it was ok.
What I did not see then that I know now is that in seasons of brokenness we are given the gift of really seeing Christmas for what it is.
When the holidays do not hold the familiar hope and joy they should –
When all the best things in life have been stripped away –
When we stand crying and bleeding for all that we’ve lost –
Jesus is still there. And He is still for us.
There will be Kings at the manger this year.
The ones with every answered prayer and dream come true.
The ones with big homes, and healthy kids, and extra gifts under the tree.
The ones who live in a place of favor and seem to have it all together.
But there will also be Shepherds.
The ones who’ve been rocked by the events of a terrible year.
The ones who’ve lost someone they love and don’t know how to keep going.
The ones who are doing all they can to just barely survive this Christmas.
And there is room enough for us all.
Perhaps this is the real reason Christmas is so tender, so precious to me. Because the miracle of Christmas is not only for the ones who are waiting expectantly in favor. Christmas, in all of its wonder and all of its goodness, is also for the ones who feel lost.