I write my Christmas letter this year to you, Jesus. I could write a sanitized, incomplete letter, telling family and friends of all the “good” and leaving out all the “bad”. You know—the usual letters of trips taken, accomplishments made, how proud we are of our children and their marriages and babies.
You know, Jesus, we’re beyond blessed that our children love You and desire to follow You in all their ways, no matter what their ways—our ways—look like to the world.
But, You know, we had a whole lot of pain this year.
What’s crazy is that You provided even more than we needed in such a dire time!
You always provide more than we need when we seek you whole-heartedly.
You poured out mercy, grace, and comfort through some of Your chosen.
Some we expected to love us, didn’t. Some we never expected to love us, did.
All is well with our souls, when we accept, with gratitude, Your perfect provision.
You loved us perfectly through the hearts and hands of others—people of Your choosing . . .
Visits to the hospital and our home. Cards sent to her and us. Shopping done when we had no time for groceries. Meals made when we had no time to cook. Errands run when we were running back-and-forth to the hospital and for months to psychiatric appointments trying desperately to stabilize. Shoulders absorbing too many tears to count. Ears eager to listen, to love. Mouths opened only in prayer and loving words. Phone calls to inquire about her and us. Questions of sincere concern. People practically begging to help us in any way we could possibly think of and then when we couldn’t think of anything more, more was given beyond our wildest hopes.
How do I explain to those who don’t know what happened—to her—to us?
How do I explain what some might think as “bad” is really our greatest gift of all?
So this letter is between You and me this year—and anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see. You know what I mean, Jesus. You wrote those words about ears hearing and eyes seeing. Not everyone who has ears hears. Not everyone who has eyes sees.
So where do I begin to thank You for all the hard this year, Jesus?
I guess I’ll start way back when I was a child—before I knew who you were—back when I believed—in Santa . . .
Back then, I thought seriously about writing my Christmas wish list each year, tucking the paper in an envelope and mailing it to the North Pole, which doesn’t need a specific address because everyone knows exactly where Santa lives, right Jesus? I pictured Santa pulling out my list and instructing his elves to get busy making everything I wanted, precisely according to my specifications.
Way back then, I couldn’t wait for the thump on the roof right after Mom tucked us kids into bed after reading The Night Before Christmas, our only Christmas Eve tradition. Santa and his sleigh had landed, led by the red-nosed one! I waited in the dark with my younger sister in my room and my younger brother in the next room over, refusing sleep until we heard the thud on the housetop. And then we all giggled loud so Mom and Dad would hear. I’m still thankful for the joy it brought our parents who didn’t know of You then.
Then, on Christmas morning, I broke open all those boxes under the tree with my name written on them that looked mysteriously like Mom’s handwriting.
Santa and his elves were more than awesome, in my child’s mind who had not yet heard of You.
Years later, I learned that Santa was actually my Dad with a basketball and a mighty good “Ho! Ho! Ho!” as he entered the house through the front door, since we didn’t have a chimney. Secretly, I was always happy about his clean entry into our home. Santa should not be covered in soot after all his hard work!
That was me as a child in a home that didn’t know you yet, Jesus.
But then, when I was a week shy of ten, a man from my state landed on the moon and something happened in my mind and heart. I began questioning who made the moon and the stars and the earth and everything seen and unseen. That one question of a child—that’s all it took for you to break into my life. One child’s question opened the door for your entry! You came in a most miraculous way, revealing Yourself to a wondering, strawberry blonde, curly-haired, ten-year-old child who went to the mall two years later and bought her first bible with her babysitting money.
Pretty quickly, I learned how much You love children and their simple, open minds . . .
Much, much later, You gave me children of my own, not born of my body, with simple minds damaged by alcohol and orphanage life, who now know You and love You and follow You, despite all their brokenness that was no fault of their own—despite all the permanent challenges that make their lives hard, our lives hard . . .
All these decades later, I’m still the strawberry blonde, curly-haired believer.
But I’m no longer a child.
I believe in You now, Jesus, not Santa.
I’ve come to know you don’t deliver gifts like Santa.
Sometimes you give exactly what we’ve asked for, hoped for, and dreamed of.
But sometimes you give what we’ve never asked for, hoped for, or dreamed of.
Sometimes, the packages we break open in our years here do not make us smile.
Sometimes, what’s inside brings tears and bewilderment.
We wonder how such a loving Father could give gifts that cause His children to cry?
Are such gifts really gifts?
I confess, I’ve wondered.
Then there’s the flickering hope—the belief, crazy as it seems to others—that our Heavenly Father, the Giver of all gifts, is always good—no matter what—and that maybe, just maybe, You know what’s best—what’s even better than anything we could have asked for, hoped for, or dreamed of.
In this life, You have given me broken. Not what I asked for. Not what I hoped for. Not what I dreamed of.
You gave me a broken me—a broken daughter—broken sons—broken husband.
Who wants broken gifts?
Now I know—You do.
And so do I, now after You’ve taught me.
Don’t we usually want to return the broken?
Now I know—You don’t.
This year, You handed me an alabaster jar—the one we read about near Easter, not Christmas.
You said to me in my spirit . . .
“This alabaster jar is you—all of you—all of your family—my precious loves—broken and poured out—for Me—for you—for all. The most perfect Christmas gift. Do not doubt me. I never waste anything!”
Would I trust the hand of the One who made me—who continues to fashion us to His liking—who says He gives only good gifts to His children?
How easy it is to blurt “Yes!”. Until the breaking begins. Until we see ourselves shattered. Until our most beloved in life is shattered. Then we believe we’ve been totally exposed, ugly and rejected. We try to hide behind smiles and superficial spirituality.
But . . .
That alabaster jar of Mary’s, broken with precious perfume poured out on Your feet, wiped with her hair, right before you went to Your cross . . .
You told me this Christmas . . .
We—are the alabaster jars!
Broken alabaster jars are Your favorite gift, our most holy offering to You!
You poured your life out for us, into us. Shall we not pour ours out for You, onto others?
But I can’t break myself. I won’t break myself. Pride and Fear holds my hand.
I need a holy hand to do a holy breaking.
You have taken me into your hands, Your alabaster jar.
All I have tried to hold together all these years, trying hard to make myself a beautiful vessel to serve You. You took me and broke me to pieces, pouring me full out. You took our kids and you broke them.
What mother’s heart can bear all the breaking?
I was so scared.
I watched myself shatter and I cried as each shard of us fell on your feet.
Then the pouring began.
The pouring out of all I thought I was, of all I thought I had to offer You. And all I saw was weakness.
I was sorrowful that I couldn’t serve you better. What good was I any longer, all broken and empty, unable to help the broken and empty?
I knelt at your feet seeing the mess of me wash all over You. Salted tears dripped on your feet. I tried to mop myself up with my tangled hair but there was too much mess. I feared you would notice the death-stench of me being poured out so raw and rancid—all my mad, sad, and scared. You know the words we’ve had in private. I tried to cover my real with you but You would have none of my fake. Helpless, I just knelt there at your feet.
Spent. Empty. Waiting.
Surely, my stench would make you sick—would make you turn—would make you want to use a better, stronger, more worldly acceptable vessel for your holy business. What good was I now—all shattered with shards scattered on your feet and across the floor—all depleted with nothing left but sickening smell?
Then, in that place of empty at your feet, face-down, something wondrous happened—the most wondrous gift . . .
You reached down with our nail-scarred hands. You reached down and I felt your gentle thumbs wiping the tears from my cheeks. You softly pushed back my wet curls. I couldn’t look up. You knew. I had no strength. So you cupped Your holy hands around my salt-burned face and, ever so tenderly, slowly, You raised my head. I couldn’t open my eyes, still afraid of what I might see.
You knew my thoughts, my fears, my shame.
So you spoke . . .
Look into my eyes, my dear daughter.
Your voice made me want to open not only my eyes!
With Your hands still cupping my face, our eyes met.
Your eyes. My eyes.
You just gazed into my eyes with the most loving smile.
And then You spoke again, still gazing straight into my eyes . . .
I love you, little curly lamb of mine.
I giggled at the term of endearment.
You laughed and continued . . .
You need not be afraid of me. I know you hurt from all the breaking this year. When I asked you if you loved me, like I asked Peter, you said you did. So I asked you to feed my sheep, just like I asked Peter. You did. Sometimes loving the ones others can’t see or won’t see is a lonely, heart-breaking offering. I know. But never, ever doubt. I am with you always. You do all for Me. I have always been with you and your children I’ve given you. Always. You never walk one step alone. And I am feeding you. I am sustaining you. I am your Bread of Life. I am your Living Water. I am your Greatest Love—your Greatest Hope—your Greatest Gift. I always provide beyond your needs, but most often not in the way you expect or even hope. I invite you to trust Me, to know that having all of me is not possible without breaking . . .
I was broken for you.
You must be broken for Me.
We, together, are broken for a broken world.
I must break all my precious Alabaster Jars. I must break all open and empty all those illusions that trap, keeping you from fully experiencing Me.
Yes, I know being broken is frightening and painful.
Remember? I was broken—for you—for all. I know your fear. I know your pain.
I have broken you wide open. I know you’re scared. I know people can be cruel. But keep your eyes on Me! I am filling all your broken with Myself.
I made you, my precious Alabaster Jar!
I fill you.
I complete you.
I pour you out.
And I never, ever leave you empty.
I fill you will good and precious, always replenishing so you can keep pouring holy goodness. This is my great will.
I’m piecing you back together after this year’s great breaking.
But you’ll never be the same.
You, my precious alabaster jar, will remained cracked.
Others may mock your cracks, calling you crazy.
Do not worry.
They don’t know, yet, how cracked pots honor Me and bless others.
The pouring out and the pouring in, through open cracks—these are the vessels I will use most in my Kingdom.
You gave me a vision of an alabaster jar, Jesus—the precious vessels we all are, crafted in Your holy hands, broken apart, pieced back together, left visibly cracked. I saw You pouring Your precious self into us all so our cracks would pour You out, Your holy aroma drawing people not near us, but near YOU!
The packages that need breaking open this Christmas are us—Your alabaster jars.
We need to be broken open, emptied of self, filled with You, Jesus, not worrying about all our imperfect cracks and comparing our alabaster jar with any other. Like snowflakes, You fashion each alabaster jar—uniquely beautiful and precious, each with our own holy purpose, decided by You in advance of our birth.
As I look back on this year, on Christmas Eve, I can now thank You for breaking me open Jesus—the One who broke through an opened, chosen Mary—the One who broke through a dark, silent night of a dark world in desperate need—the one who broke bread with us and gave thanks—the One broken for us, heart and body—the One who breaks us open, still today and every day, so we can be filled.
You have broken me to pieces, Jesus.
You have broken my precious family—Your precious family—to pieces this year, Jesus.
You know . . .
There is a breaking so painful one wonders what will be left once we’re shattered and the shards fall to the ground.
As I meditate on Your holy word, I have seen you in the darkest night.
I have seen you weeping over your beloved. I have seen you carrying my cross—all of our crosses. I have seen you hanging, bleeding, broken for all of us. I have seen you poured out on those who spit in your face and turn their backs and decide they will walk their own way, still praying to you for blessing. Such are the deceived.
Have mercy, Lord!
Open blind eyes!
Open closed hearts!
Break through darkness like You did that first holy night!
I have seen you laying in a manger. I have seen you laid lifeless in a tomb. I have seen the stone rolled away. I have seen your death chamber, empty. I have seen you risen, our mighty Conqueror.
You know the pain of our process, Jesus. But you also know full well Your holy purpose.
And for the joy You know lies ahead, You help us endure. You always hold us in firm hope that we will come through stronger.
You are my complete Joy, Jesus!
You, Jesus . . .
You are the GREATEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER!