It’s still dark, early in the morning. I left all the lights off to come downstairs and write my blog in the glow of the Christmas tree. Soak up my last view of my Norman Rockwell-esque Christmas before we skip town and effectively skip Christmas altogether.
We don’t have the kids for Christmas this year. We had them last year and will have them next year. But this year, it’s not our turn. Life in a divorced family.
I consider myself fairly well adjusted when it comes to the messiness of this life God has placed me in. But last night, I gave in to all the feelings I had been ignoring for the days and months leading up to this.
All the kids were here last night. Briefly, before they scattered off to be with friends and then end up at their other parents’ houses. There were about five minutes when all five of us were here.
I sat next to Brad on the couch and Broken Christmas hit me like a Mack truck. And I started to cry.
Brad didn’t seem surprised or scared (he’s been to this movie before). He looked over at me tenderly and, already knowing the answer, asked, “Babe, what’s going on over there?”
The tree lights were on with presents underneath. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. All the kids were home. All I wanted for Christmas was there, for a fleeting moment.
“This is what I wanted. For Christmas. For all of my Christmases. The tree. The stockings. The kids. It’s all here….”
“For about five minutes,” he finished for me. (Like I said, been to this movie before.)
“Tomorrow we’re going on our cruise,” he offered, hopefully.
“I know. And it will be wonderful,” I agreed tearfully. “But it won’t be (I motioned to all the Christmas in the room) this.”
He reached over and squeezed my hand. “I know, babe. I know.” And he does know. A kid popped up, looking for something and I pulled it together.
A few moments later, I hugged the two older ones goodbye (a little too hard), told them Merry Christmas and I loved them so much. Then I got in the car and drove the youngest to her dad. I hugged her equally as hard and covered her face with kisses. “Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas. I love you so much.”
We both laughed at my obnoxious display of affection. She hugged me back and walked away. I got back in the car alone and turned the music on as loud as it would go to in an attempt to prevent any thinking, and drove home.
Well, I must admit, I have a thinking problem. (The first step is admitting it, right?) So as I drove, Jesus and I had to talk it through.
Lord, they’re not here.
I know, My child. It’s painful.
I got the tree. The lights. The gifts. The stockings. But in 24 hours the house will be empty and I’ll be on a big beautiful boat holding a frozen mudslide watching the sunset over the ocean with my husband.
Doesn’t sound too bad to Me.
No, it sounds amazing. It’s just not… Christmas.
I see. So Christmas has to look a certain way? With the lights and the tree and the family and all that? And if any of those pieces are missing, it’s not really Christmas. Is that what you mean?
Yes. That’s EXACTLY what I mean.
(We sat in brooding silence for a moment.)
You know, I didn’t have a tree.
Lord, what are You talking about? You have ALL the trees. Every tree. Any tree. If a tree on this planet has grown or will grow at any point in time, it’s Yours. It’s all Yours.
Not that night.
Listen, don’t lecture me on Broken Christmases. I am the expert. I wrote that blog years ago and explained it to everybody. The first Christmas was a broken Christmas. So why should we expect any different? I got it.
Yes, I wrote it!
But did you read it?
Yes, I read it. I had to check for typos.
Have you read it lately?
Maybe you should. There’s some good stuff in there.
Fine. I’ll read it when I get home. But that won’t change the fact that my Christmas will be non-existent this year.
Because of the missing pieces.
Yes. No Christmas. Hell, there’s not even Santa Clause anymore. Caroline figured it out last year. ANOTHER missing piece.
You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were a Christmas Pharisee. (Teasing smile.) All these rules. And if they’re not followed perfectly, then the whole thing is for not. That’s a lot of pressure.
Okay, I know I sound kind of bratty. But You know it’s not the STUFF. It’s the people. I just want all my people.
I’m going to tell you what I told sweet Martha many years ago: You are worried about many things. But only one Thing is needed.
But You’re here. You’re always here.
YES! Omnipresent. The Holy Spirit. Living in all those who believe. You’re everywhere, all the time.
Do you live like that is true?
You know what, Lord, I’m not perfect.
Oh, I know. (Holy chuckle.)
I mean, I try.
You do try. I know you try. You try and strive and write and teach. But now I’ll tell you something I told a certain group of teachers back in the day: You who teach others, do you not teach yourself?
I know the Truth!
Yes, you KNOW the Truth. But you don’t BELIEVE it.
Of course, I believe it! We’re having this conversation, aren’t we?
Only one Thing is needed, My child. Only one Thing. Martha needed all her pieces too. Everything had to be just so for the celebration to be a success. And like you, she meant well. She had everything she thought she needed (except Mary’s help, of course). But she sees the one Thing, the only Thing she needed was already there.
You just said so yourself. Omnipresent. Residing in the soul of all believers. The only Thing you need. Not the only thing you WANT. But absolutely all you need. And I can be present on that boat with you just as much as I can sitting by the Christmas tree. You just don’t always know it.
You know, you idealize past Christmases. Because everyone you loved was there. All your precious pieces were in place. But there was one Piece missing. The Cornerstone. The Firm Foundation. The Light of the World. The Bread of Life. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. The Price of Peace…. Me.
No, You were there.
The nativity scene doesn’t count. I was always at the Christmas Eve service the night before. But amid all your other pieces: the family, the gifts, the tree, the food, well, there wasn’t much need for… Me. And you’re not one to ignore guests. You just… forget about Me.
Come on, Lord. That’s harsh.
But true. Think about it. Think about you surrounded by all your pieces in the throes of Christmas morning. You’re handing out gifts, opening gifts, eating cinnamon rolls and breakfast casserole, lost in the bliss of Christmas.
So if you can’t have all your other pieces and you can’t check off all the boxes on your list of requirements for a happy Christmas, do you think maybe this year, you could settle for just Me?
I mean, you’ll have lots of other pieces to distract you. Room service. A veranda view. All the boat drinks you could possibly consume. Delicious food everywhere. Again, far more than you need. Only one Thing is needed. Will you allow Me to be with you for Christmas?
(Deep breath, tears threatening.)
Will you see Me in the wild ocean, in the beautiful islands? Will you marvel at My power and majesty to create such wonders for you to behold? The waves and wind still know My Name. They remember. Will you? Will you bask in My love as you bask in the sun? Will you recognize all I have given you, that they are all gifts from My hand?
Because guess what. If you will, that’s Christmas. Only one Thing is needed. Many things are wanted. Many things are HAD. But only one is needed. And if you let Me be a part of it, Christmas will be complete. Your LIFE will be complete.
Will you let Me?
You don’t need my permission.
No, I don’t. I could storm in and take over at any moment. But that’s not how I roll. I am with you always. See Me in the beauty, in the blessings. See Me in the pain, in the emptiness. Let Me fill it. Let Me fill you. It is the only life that is truly life.
You called it abundant life.
Yes, well, I like the way Paul said it too. Whatever it’s called, I want you to have it. I created you to have it. Chase life. Chase Me. Not these worldly pursuits. Not even those you love. I love them more. And I’ve got them even when you don’t. Chase Me.
(Exhale.) Only one Thing is needed?
Only one Thing is needed. And you’ve got Me, sweet girl. All of Me, whenever you want. I’m right here.
My one Thing. The only Thing that’s needed.
The rest is just icing. No, gravy. You like gravy better.
I love gravy. Will there be gravy on the cruise?
I’m sure. Just don’t get lost in the gravy this year, okay? (Affectionate smile.)
Okay. Will You come with us on the cruise? Will You be there for Christmas?
Yes, I will. On Christmas and on all days. Seek Me and you will find Me. I won’t hide. Now go wake up your husband. He hasn’t packed yet. Don’t forget your passport. And I’ll see you on the water.
(Entitled grin.) Will You walk on it for me? For my Christmas present?
(Delighted laugh.) Let me check with My Father. Not sure if that’s on the docket this Christmas. But we’ll see. Just remember, My girl. Only one Thing is needed.
Only one Thing is needed. (Sigh.) I love You, Lord.
I know. And I love you more.