Christmas isn't that big of a deal here. New year is the main event. Christmas still gets people excited but not as much as the huge 24 hour knees-up that is New Year.
I suppose, and guess, that in a country that was communist for such a long time that the main reason for Christmas got diluted, faded, in the light of other holidays. Holidays less threatening to a government that's trying to kill God. Holidays that don't display divinity quite so blatantly.
Every time Alla accidentally calls Christmas 'New Year' (in her head they're interchangeable but they couldn't be more different - worship versus self congratulation) I find myself wanting to argue with her but the only language I have to do that is to shout 'No! Not new year! Happy Birthday Jesus!' and that's just stupid.
I'll probably still do it though.
But why? Why does this bother me so much?
Christianity is full of boring stuff. Awkward stuff. Uncertain things. Confused theologies and arguments and terrible fashion sense (please could 30 something Christians stop wearing bootcut jeans? Please? And chunky skate trainers? We'll be trying to bring back the one strap back-pack next and then I will be forced to crawl into a hole and die of shared shame.) and things I don't know how to explain and daily grind and not a lot of glory. Not a lot of skies rendered by angels going mental.
And now we have a two year old and she wants to understand the songs we sing and words like heaven and love and thank you. She wants to understand what a stable is, and a manger, and why Jesus was away in it. So I find myself rediscovering Christmas and it's beautiful like I don't think I ever realised before. I'm one excited mummy right now.
So this is why it bothers me that my girls don't understand Christmas:
Because it's beautiful.
It's beautiful in a way that renders everything else grey. It takes everything, absolutely everything about being a person on this planet and ruins it, makes death impossible, makes sin weak, makes curses slip away.
The moment where God declared, in the cough and gurgle of a newborn baby,
I am here.
I got this.
For the poverty stricken, the homeless, the poor, those who can only sleep with the animals, the refugees hunted from their homes, those for who it isn't safe to return. Those who haven't got hospitals to trust in the terrifying thing that is childbirth. Those who do these things alone and scared in the straw, holding hands and praying when that's all you've got.
A baby boy born and, yup, lain in a manger.
For the rich, so wealthy they can devote their lives to studies, who yearn for something else, someone else, for the broken hearted who move among the richest in the world and know they can't trust the Herods. To feel outside and alone even when they've got everything they should want, those who are still hungry despite all their wisdom and riches.
Stars in the sky to show the way.
For the thugs. For the unemployable. For the ones who don't fit in and do the jobs in the dark, where nobody has to see you. The ones who don't get included in anything.
A sky full of angels.
I would so love to know what it sounds like when the sky is full of angels. Pretty scary, apparently.
For my girls.
Nobody told them, ever, what they're worth.
Nobody told them that He's here.
For those abandoned as babies, rejected and put inside walls built by corrupt governments, to grow up strong but full of longing and so afraid, for those who don't know how to navigate this terrifying thing called life because nobody ever cared enough to show them. For those who have been rejected as ugly, as deformed, and for those who have wished themselves deformed because their beauty causes agony. For my girls, for those who are despised as lesser because they don't know how to get the grades, how to fit in, they don't know how to win. For those who never stood a chance, for those who never asked to be born and now don't know who to ask for life to the full.
Nobody ever told them He's here.
So I want them to know. I do so want them to know about the baby in the stable, the star in the sky, the sky full of angels. I want them to know about the God who wants them, who can redeem and transform their unthinkable sorrows and give them unlimited joys. The God who saved me, who still saves me, who has taken thirty one years to get to know me and with whom I'm going to spend a lot more time.
Yup, I want them to know.
I want them to know about Christmas. About the look on His face when he saw what was done to them. I want them to see the look in His eyes when he smiles over them. That fire. I want them to know about how much He wants them - that he would call me to give up my family, my loved ones, my security and my financial future and my childrens' schooling and not on the high street dot com and kale smoothies and all the things I miss because
he wants them.
He will chase them,
to save them,
and my obedience is the only thing I have to give Him in this. I can't communicate it any clearer than my presence here, the sacrifice it is and the daily things my hands can do to bless them.
I want them to know about Christmas.
I want them to know about themselves. How I would give up even more than this, for them, for Him, because of how much He wants them.
I want them to be loved.