By Lizzy Milani
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34: 18
“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…” My seven year old has been singing! And yep, he is about to lose his two top teeth, so it’s kinda fitting, too.
Christmas is filled with “wants.” What others want for Christmas, what I want for Christmas, what we want out of Christmas… lots of wants. They’re romantic and whimsical, filled with joy and anticipation, whispered about with expectation for what will be under the tree, around the table, and in our homes.
But for some of us, near and far, the want is less “heart-filled” and more “heart-ache.”
Pain rends room in our lives. All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (or peace or healing or joy or hope or relief or reconciliation or providence) to fill up the space that was created by the loss of the last two.
By the time the angel appeared to Mary – as the story goes – pain was a resident of every home in Israel. The Jewish people had lived in Advent – the great waiting – for more years than not; perhaps even from the very beginning. Waiting for the coming of the Promise, the Saviour, the one who would restore Shalom – peace. When we sing our Christmas carols, watch our Christmas movies, and write our Christmas cards, we don’t have in mind the turbulent and violent time the story of Christmas was birthed within. Political, economic and religious oppression and pressure ruled the day. The Israelites were (once more) prisoners in their own country, with generations upon generations of history steeped in violence and war and loss – the Israelites knew a thing or two about pain and the space it creates.
Being unmarried and pregnant put Mary in a very precarious position. She was already betrothed (Joseph), and she would have to explain this pregnancy to him and trust that he would believe her. Joseph had every right (culturally) to reject Mary, and her family had every right (culturally) to evict her from the family home. She herself had very few legal rights, and there was no welfare system… In Ancient Israel, unmarried pregnant girls often ended up as slaves, exiles, living on the streets and becoming sex workers. If Joseph and Mary’s family weren’t willing to stand by her, she stood to lose her security, her family, and even her baby. She could have lost everything.
I don’t for a second believe that all was smooth sailing those first months after Mary became pregnant. Matthew wrote in his book that Joseph planned on quietly leaving Mary and her child. Yet, he stayed. Did he believe her? Did they wrestle with the story? Did they believe that the child growing in Mary’s womb would be a war hero? A political activist? Would he rally the Israelites and lead them to victory against the Romans, freeing them from oppression and restoring their dignity and place of belonging in the known world?
And if the answers to these questions were anywhere near yes, why would God choose to incarnate himself into an unwed, unknown, ordinary Jewish girl who stood to lose everything if the people around her didn’t buy into her story?
Pain creates room. And the Israelites had plenty of it. Mary, too. All the uncertainty, the worry, the fear – it all prepared space in her heart for the miraculous, for the “something more.” It cleared out the certainties, the “this is how it is,” the distractions, and the platitudes and made anticipatory space for comfort, peace, grace… maybe even hope.
Christmas isn’t beautiful because of the decorations, or the songs, or even the gifts beneath the tree. The beauty of Christmas is that God came to man, became a man, in the midst of great suffering and uncertainty. And He didn’t come as a knight in shining armour ready to sweep us off our feet and procure us a tower to live in for the rest of our lives. He came as a baby, vulnerable, and ready to grow with us, alongside us.
Emmanuel, God with us. The incarnation shows us that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18 (NLT)
In our pain, in our suffering, and in our hope for tomorrow, even still, He is near.
So while you may not be wishing for your “two front teeth” this Christmas (like my son), the deep ache of “wanting” in your heart does not go unheard, unseen or unrealized by the Divine. In fact, He is occupying the space of your pain even as you read. The great hope of Christmas is that God dwells where we would least expect Him.
Like in a broken nation.
Like in an ordinary, unmarried, virgin Jewish girl.
Like in the middle of the muck and mess and beauty of your life, just as it is.
Lizzy Milani is the Co-founder and author at Pktfuel.com – a devotional for the rest of us. She loves coffee, reading, and binging Netflix. Seriously though, she has more questions than answers, and she’s seeking them out all the way through. BTW, love wins. You can find her online at pktfuel.com, facebook.com/pktfuel, instagram.com/pocketfuel, instagram.com/lizzy.milani, twitter.com/pktfuel or twitter.com/lizzymilani.