Back in October, our business Christmas cards arrived from the printer. Our five year old daughter, Trina, designed the front art this year: a smiling Christmas tree with bright red garland, a yellow star, and…eyelashes.
She was so excited to open the box. It was here!
Between drawing the tree, redrawing to make sure it’s perfect, designing, and getting the order printed it had been weeks. (In kid-time, “weeks” are pretty much a lifetime to wait for anything.)
Trina marveled at her work made real in print. Holding up a single card, she twirled in circles. The idea of sharing this beautiful thing she created with everyone in the world? It’s the best thing ever.
As my daughter grabbed our stuffed snowman and started insisting that now (in October!) we could decorate the tree, I thought about how much excitement both heaven and earth felt on that very first Christmas.
It’s not easy to keep something good a secret, is it?
Friends, I don’t have much to write this week in the way of roofing or vinyl siding.
If you’ve ever worked with our crew, you know there’s a deeper reason behind why we love to help others feel protected in- and proud of- their homes. Which is why this week for Christmas I feel it’s important to share something a little more with our Martin family here in Pennsylvania.
Christmas With- and Christmas Without
Christmas is a time of celebration- a season of love and family.
But the older I get, the more I realize the bright lights and sweet carols veil a lot of the pain and anxiety many of us feel in the season. Christmas is a lot of pressure! I’ve seen families overstretch themselves emotionally and financially- and the stress to make every Christmas “the best” is a real distraction to the amazing miracle behind the holiday.
You may know my husband Vern and I have two “sets” of children. We have our grown babies, who have made us so proud- growing into wonderful adults out on their own. And we have our two “littles” at home.
With such a gap between, their childhoods have been very different.
My oldest boys came with us when we served in Kenya. They saw first hand what it’s like to live, and celebrate, Christmas in a 3rd world country.
We just don’t see that third-world type of poverty here in Schuylkill County. Our church drives for canned food and winter coats are a world away from a country where most people can’t afford to treat Christmas differently than any other day of their lives. The luckiest families may have a little flour to spare to make chapati (flat bread) for Christmas- but there are no special gifts.
My youngest two babies only know about “American” Christmas. The shining wrapping paper, the school crafts with too much glitter, and warm clean socks to change into after playing in the snow.
What We All Have
You’d think after spending Christmas in Kenya, it’d be easy to downplay the stress I see parents here feel over a season that- for better or worse- typically means spending a lot of extra time and money.
But I don’t.
When I hear things like…
I don’t have the time to go to the cookie bake this year…
We don’t have the money to buy the MyMoji Lovable Labradoodle…
I know that stress is real life. But I also know it isn’t the real Christmas. You see, focusing on what we don’t have is something we, as imperfect humans, layer on top of the season.
But Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with what you or I don’t have…Christmas is about what we all have.
You Have A Reason To Celebrate!
As Vern worked to improve the infrastructure in Kenyan communities, our family spent Christmas by his side without the American trimmings.
But Christmas was still with us- just as it had been for the lowly in Bethlehem. In that one moment, all of creation began to spread the good news. Christmas is for spreading good news that everyone’s invited to rejoice in.
What a reason to celebrate!
If you too believe in the gospel, then you’ll remember even the angels couldn’t help but rush through heaven’s gates to celebrate the gift being given on earth:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
-Luke 2: 8-14
Best of all? Your Christmas in 2021 still holds the opportunity for that divine and wild celebration.
Kenyan or Pennsylvanian, angel or human, no matter how much you put under your tree…next week we are all here to celebrate a miracle.
My Prayer for You
The truth is I’ve been thinking about this celebration for months- ever since those Christmas cards arrived at our door. I like to imagine Trina back in October, bursting at the seams Christmas card in hand, was a glimpse of the unbridled joy of the shepherds and angels felt with the first Christmas harald.
In that spirit, here is my Christmas prayer for all of our family, friends, and neighbors who have touched our lives throughout the seasons of our work:
May this season be a time you celebrate with the enthusiasm of the angels in Bethlehem. In between making the holiday something “special” for others- you feel the fullness of God’s gift to all of us.
Jenny Martin and family