Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. Prior to being diagnosed with bipolar, it was also the time of the year when my mood would escalate and the spending sprees would ensue. I also frequently experienced over-the-top focus on making Christmas “perfect.” I had never had anything but a “perfect” Christmas until 1995. That December was the first Christmas, following a manic episode earlier that year, which had led to the loss of my job as the head pastor of a large and growing church. It was also the first time in my life where I was not preaching, singing or playing an instrument in a worship service on Christmas Eve. Needless to say, I was in a lot of pain, grieving and numb from all of the hurt. I was lonely, filled with shame and remorse. Our world had imploded due to my behavior. My diseased brain had caused a very painful, messy situation. It was a stinkin’ pile of crappy mess! But, it was also the first time in my life that I think I got a glimpse of what Christmas is really about.
It was through the stripping away of all of the usual Christmas activities and traditions that I began to understand how messy the first Christmas was. Think about it. If you were God, wouldn’t you have done it differently? God could have done it with great pomp and circumstance; after all, who is more disserving of it than his son? But, he didn’t. Instead, he entered our world in the mess of a stable filled with animals along with all of the stench and the manure. His son was born right in the middle of all of it. He was born into the mess of a mother who was pregnant but not married at the time. And instead of a huge announcement of his birth to the world, the announcement was given to some shepherds out in the fields tending their sheep. Shepherds? Really? Who would ever believe them? After all, they weren’t even allowed to testify in the court system because they were known to be scoundrels who perpetually lied. What a messy birth. But, then again, messy is what our world is. Life can be very messy. And it was because of His love that He entered into our mess.
Maybe this Christmas is messy for you; messy because of the mess of life itself. But, possibly made even into a bigger mess when you stack bipolar on top of all of it. Maybe your world has imploded and brought nothing more than loss, pain, and shame. If so, please know this: this baby of Bethlehem who was born into a messy situation understands your mess. And not only does He love you; He is with you. And He is for you! My life is living proof that He can take HUGE messes and work something wonderful out of it. It did not happen quickly. It was a process that took time. But, I can honestly say that today I see how He has and continues to, redeem all of the messes of my life, including the messes that the bipolar disorder created. I’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as a “perfect” Christmas. It is not about that. Instead, it’s about messy Christmases and Jesus entering into our messy world to save us and redeem us- including the working together of all of our messes for our good. He IS with you. He IS for you; even if you don’t feel it. That doesn’t change the truth. He is working all things together for your good, (Romans 8:28) including any messes you may have made.
The reality is that there are no perfect families, no perfect Christmases, no perfect lives. Instead, the perfect one entered into our broken and messy world and lives. The peace He brings is the true peace, joy, and hope in midst of our messes. He is our sure and certain hope in spite of our messy circumstances. He has come for you. In whatever circumstances you find yourself in this year. He is working things out for your good. He loves you unconditional. He has not given up on you, nor will He ever give up on you. Because of Him, there is real hope. Hope for today. Hope for tomorrow. Hope in spite of your circumstances.
Christmas is still my favorite time of the year. However, there are no more spending sprees or an escalated mood. Rather, I celebrate quietly His entering into my mess and continuing to up-cycle and repurpose my pain for my good and the good of others. I’m not the exception to what He can do. Nor are you!
So, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy, for unto you this day in the city of David, a savior is born who is Christ, the Lord.” He specializes in brokenness, messy lives, hope and forgiveness and He has come just for YOU!