Last Christmas, we were approaching 6 months of living without our belongings and England still felt like a brand new pair of shoes that was rubbing in all the wrong places. Clinging to the thought that Christmas would “be the same as it always had been” was a gift to us during December 2018. We boarded a plane a few days before Christmas and found what we had been hoping for: family and friends, the familiar and Christmas as we had celebrated it for all of our lives. We were home.
This Christmas, we are staying in England. There are still things that pop up that make us feel like strangers in this land and there are many people on the other side of the ocean that we ache to get to see, but a lot has changed in a year’s time. We have made this place our home. Our house is older than the United States and we love its charm. All of our belongings arrived on a shipping container in February. Things are just that – things, but their familiarity does something to you when memories flood your mind at the sight of them. It has been delightful to get out our Christmas decorations and see where they will go in this new place.
These caroler dolls were a love of my grandmother’s and that is why I love them too. My kids think that they are a bit creepy and they have been a joke with friends for years. I felt somewhat self-conscious putting them up this year as they are “so American” and people don’t seem to decorate like that here. But, they take me back to my Grandma’s kitchen where there was a bay window full of them. They make me hear her voice ringing through the air, so they belong in my Christmas.
Grandma’s kitchen always had apothecary jars of ribbon candy on the counter at Christmas time as well. While living in the US, I would replicate this. This week, my daughter and I scoured the town for ribbon candy. No one (not even Amazon!) has heard of ribbon candy and so we found ourselves in the old fashioned sweet shop trying to make do. What we found is not the same, but we Mullens girls are flexible after the journey we have been on.
Christmas descends upon the world like a whirlwind made up of happy songs, hectic schedules, expectations, and pressure to find the perfect gift. These days are intense. Four kids in three schools and it seems like each day of this month contains a variation to the norm that I need to remember. “Ugly Christmas Jumper Day,” “Bring in a Tinned Good,” field trips to the local pantomime, Ice Skating and “Please send in £3 for Christmas Dinner for lunch. . . .” If I am honest, I can get overwhelmed, focused on shopping for gifts and a little crazy all at the same time. I can forget what matters.
When we were visiting Kenya over 5 years ago, we had about 20 minutes of shopping time in this little market. My husband bought me this nativity set, that takes my breath away each time I lay eyes on it. I have a bit of a thing for nativity sets. I will never get over the beauty of the Jesus’ birth story. I want it pictured everywhere in my house and I love seeing my little girl playing with the cheap wooden one from Aldi. The nativity constantly gives me perspective on what all of the celebrating is all for: the King of Kings who became a baby on my behalf.
Each morning of this month, my oldest son and have been doing an advent Bible study together. Today, he earnestly asked me, “Did Jesus really need to come? If God is God couldn’t he just change the rules so that Jesus didn’t have to come and die?”
I know how often I change the rules for myself and I am not God. Of course, he could have. He could have said, “Never mind, it doesn’t really matter that you have rejected me. It doesn’t matter what you do with your lives. When you die, you can all just come to heaven and be with me.”
But would people even want that? Or he could have changed the economy and said, “As long as your good deeds outweigh your bad, you and I are good.”
But what about those who have made big mistakes that could never be outweighed; what about them? And could even reasonably good people be sure that they were really good, because of all of the selfishness that can still live inside? Are good deeds really good when they are done with the motivation of trying to remain in “a good person” category or to get ahead in some way personally?
Jesus had to come because God is God. God knows what going our own way and living for ourselves will do to us, not to mention the other people we come in contact with. Sin is a robber that can steal a person’s very life from them. God has better in mind for us.
God had a hero in mind. Someone who would willingly lay it all on the line, so that all the baggage that stood between us and God could be done away with, no matter how heavy it was. Jesus took the punishment that had our name on it when he died on the cross. Jesus conquered death by rising again so that we would never have anything to fear. He proved that he was who he said he was. Jesus is the mediator that we needed to go between us and God.
It sounds like the best of fairy tales, but I can attest that it is true. I have had the One who claimed to be “the Light of the World” shine through my darkest circumstances. The Prince of Peace is the only One who brings calm to my crazy.
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)
I have seen his living water quench the thirst that insecurity brings to me. In Jesus alone do I know who I am and do I know that I secure.
God Almighty, the One who hung the stars in the sky, and Who makes the Ocean roar, was in love with humanity enough to send Love here and rescue us from ourselves. This incredible story is where I have made my home and is how I am home for Christmas no matter where I live.