It has been a family tradition of ours since my oldest was around 3 years old to attend the Nutcracker. Our little niece invited us to see her in a local tap-ballet version of the Nutcracker last weekend and we decided to attend that instead of paying to go see the fancy one in the city. Truth be told, it has been a few years since we have gone to see the real one... so we were thrilled to get an invitation. They had a few technical difficulties and the children weren't professional ballet, but it was a beautiful performance. I practically got giddy during the tap dancing portion. I love a good tap dancing scene!
It was the baby's first time to see the Nutcracker. It was raining and muddy outside the performance center. The place was packed and I had to rearrange everyone's seating so I could have the end of the row (to sneak out if baby got upset). He cried before the sugar plum fairies came on stage and I had to miss my favorite Tchaikovsky song so I could nurse him. Allowing him to crawl on the floor through an empty back aisle during the last few songs and feeding him cereal kept him from being too loud. Having a baby with you at 'quiet' audience events isn't easy, but what a joy they are in your life. No pain or inconvenience can diminish the sweetness of new little people.
I took this photo of the kids out in the lobby. I would have loved it if all three of them were in focus (and wearing matching clothes for Christmas pictures - the way we usually did 'Nutcracker Night' when my oldest kids were younger)... and their smiles had not been faked.
Sometimes we don't always get everything we want, do we?
Do you ever get disappointed around the holidays that things just aren't 'ideal'? Our ideals are usually close to the same for Christmas time. In fact, there are a lot of songs that speak of our wishes:
"Winter Wonderland"... Everyone wants a beautiful happy season.
"Dreaming of a White Christmas"... No treetops glistening around these Texas neck of the woods... nor children listening to hear sleigh bells. Sorry.
I could go on; but you get the point, right?
The fact is that life - however nitty and gritty it may be - is often times lacking of our highest expectations. That's why we have movies like 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'. Life is like that. Life is where half the lights are out on the pre-lit tree, it rains on your Christmas cards before the mail man comes, and you get stuck in traffic and miss the first part of your kid's choir concert. That seems to be my own personal theme lately: embracing imperfection. Life is messy. Babies remind you just how messy it can get.
Just think about how it might have been at the very first Christmas. Imagine the smell of barn animals under the twinkling stars. Think about how Mary might have screamed or cried while delivering her baby - just a young, inexperienced virgin girl - on that 'Silent Night'. What about Joseph? His mixed emotions... his fear of caring for a wife and child - his sadness that he had to bring this baby in the world in such a dirty, busy, public place? It was hardly an ideal place for the King of Kings to enter in. You can almost hear the bustle of the packed town - teeming humanity - travelers from all over - crowded inns - life going on in oblivion around this crying little babe and his bewildered new earthly parents.
What might have been Joseph and Mary's 'Christmas' ideals? I'm sure a clean bed with a roof over their heads was one they were counting on - maybe even for Mary to not deliver until they were back home. God had something else in mind (as He usually does for all of us). He still provided the heavens over them that night (which is far more wonderful than a man-made roof) - stretched out in all their glory. He knew best. Sometimes we just need to look up - take a deep breath - and realize that we are in His hands. Even when the turkey is burnt, the kids are fighting and there's not a single parking space at the mall.
God is there... in the details; if we will only look for him.
Our ideals are wonderful things to have; as long as we don't let them keep us from enjoying the path that God places us on.
Proverbs 16:9 ~ In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Jesus... may our hopes and ideals this Christmas be in line with Your plan for us. Help us to see your beauty in ordinary moments. Amen.