By Katie Helmreich
We’re “real tree” people. Come what may, we load everybody in the Suburban and head to the tree farm early each December! I love the cozy, Courier and Ives vibe. I love the snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. I love walking in a winter wonderland with my loves and finding the perfect Tannenbaum!
Somehow, it’s never as magical as I picture it…
Most years someone is in tears over a boot or glove disaster before we’ve even left the garage. We trek bravely out into the brown, frozen mud field in search of a tree, but I usually spend more time looking for the kids and making sure they’re at least attempting to keep up. There’s more whining than caroling. This year one of the kids even got hit in the head with the top of the tree when it came down faster than expected.
Nearly every year I ask myself why we bother. I don’t even want to be there, and it was my dream in the first place!
Advent devotions this year have been a real struggle, too. In November I had the opportunity to share about a devotion resource my friend Valerie and I put together a while back! It was really exciting to share about how the Jesse Tree readings and devotions had been a blessing in my own family for several years!
A couple of weeks later, here we are. December 9th, firmly in the middle of Advent, and we’ve done devotions exactly twice. Last night I broke down and cried in the middle of the opening prayer. Why is it so hard to get everybody to sit down and get along for three minutes? I didn’t even want to be there, and it was my goal in the first place!
But Jesus did.
Jesus did want to be there, even though it was kind of ugly.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)
Jesus came to our dinner table even though Jane kept blowing out the candles too early, and even though Noah kept getting mad about it.
The Holy Spirit was among us even though hearts were bitter, patience was low, and focus nearly non-existent.
The Father continues to be with us even when we don’t feel at peace. The Father wants to be with us! That has been God’s plan since the beginning.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God … In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
Jesus came, not to a world of peace or joy, but to bring peace and joy to the world. He came to a dark place filled with broken people. And His light has overcome that darkness.
Jesus is Immanuel, God With Us, because Jesus wants to be here with us, because He loves us. Jesus comes to our broken hearts and makes them whole again. Jesus offers real hope, lasting peace, and true joy–even when our family devotion time doesn’t go well.
“A thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices, for yonder dawns a new and glorious morn’…“
Whether or not your days are merry and bright, whether your Christmas is white or otherwise, whether family devotions feel meaningful or stressful, I pray that you and yours will experience the comfort Jesus brings, even when we don’t feel like it.
Immanuel, God With Us–here with us in our brokenness, as we wait for Him to come again, to gather us up with Him to eternal life and the glory of the new creation!
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!