As I type this morning, I’m sitting by my Christmas tree in what will certainly prove to be one of the few quiet moments between now and Christmas. It’s kind of a weird build up to Christmas for us this year, since sometime in these few weeks I’m going to have a baby. That means that this year the preparations, anticipation, and, yes, chaos of the Christmas season are all tangled up with the preparations for and anticipation of the tiny babe who will arrive in our lives near the end of December.
I’ll be honest with you, I have struggled with the idea of having a Christmas baby. I have shed tears over missed family gatherings. I have mourned over the fact that my poor baby’s birthday will be buried in holiday festivities for years to come. I have worried about how to celebrate an uncertain Christmas with a two year-old who suddenly loves this season (he just came grinning sleepily into the room, asking where “Ruelof the Red-nose” is—quiet moment officially gone).
It took actually starting our Advent celebrations last week for me to wake up and see what a gift a Christmas baby actually is. You probably caught on sooner than I did, maybe right there in the first paragraph. As I prepare for a new baby to come and live with us, to become part of our family, I get to experience in a fresh and new way the idea of Advent as the preparation for another small baby to come to dwell with us, to become a part of our everyday lives.
God with us. God dwelling among us. God settling in and making a home with us. This is the awesome thing that we celebrate at Christmas. To think of the lengths God has gone to in order to dwell with us is amazing and humbling to me. Recently I wrote about the instructions for building the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place, and there is this moment that I love in those chapters where God concludes a section of his instructions to Moses by saying, “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God” (Exodus 29:45-46, italics mine). All the miracles, the plagues, the parting of the sea and the manna and the quail—all because He wanted to dwell with his people.
And then. And then at Christmas, He truly comes among us. The Christmas story in John’s Gospel doesn’t have angels or shepherds or wise men. Instead it just says this: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a). God Himself shows up, taking up a spot in His own creation, so that He can be with us, so that ultimately He can bring us back to Him and make us a dwelling place in which He lives by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Kind of incredible.
As I wait for my own little babe to arrive, as I anticipate what she will be like and how she will change my world and make my family whole and as I prepare to make space for her in our lives, I am poignantly reminded that Advent is about waiting for God to arrive and preparing a space for Him to do the quiet, miraculous thing of making a dwelling place with me and of me, of making me whole. Turns out a baby is a pretty good Christmas gift after all.