December 21, 2013

Sleepless Nights

There are things not worth losing sleep over…

With just days remaining till Christmas morning dawns, these are the nights mothers stay awake-- either doing things to get ready or thinking of things that need yet to be done! Sugar plums fairies aren't dancing in our heads. No. Greedy gremlins grimace there--egging us on to do more, more, more to make everyone happy and the holiday unforgettable…It's all up to us! (?)

There are endless lists of things to make, bake, buy, wrap, and mail…And then there are the 'stocking stuffers' that send us back to the store to meander in circles trying to find the perfect little 'somethings' and maybe just one more gift while we're at it. After all, we don't want anyone to be disappointed on Christmas morning…

And is it just me, or are other moms dogged by the persistent glimmer of an elusive gift that hangs just beyond our consciousness waiting to be thought of?  We wake at night scratching our heads to conjure it up but it eludes us…that ideal gift.  No, these are definitely not sugar plum fairies. Anticipation isn't the cause of our sleepless nights. Anxiety is!

A roaring lion, this, stalking his prey in the middle of the night…looking for someone to devour…. How about this mother. She looks peaceful sleeping there…She thinks everything's under control and that this year is going to be a peaceful celebration of the real reasons for the Christmas Season. Wait till I get through with her!

And then they come, the arrows--pangs of reminder that the time is too short, the presents too few and too feeble. And this idea of having a peaceful season, why it's simply laughable. Never! You're a Martha, not a Mary!

It's sabotage at its best--get 'em when they're down with sleep muddling their heads.

Have you been there? I don't know about you but I'm more vulnerable in the night to anxiety's taunting. By day I'm happily busy, trying to be intentional about what matters and let the rest slide. The annual family letter, the Carols by Candlelight tradition with friends, the Christmas music—these I value. A bit of decorating and some baking too. I even made one homemade card this year which may arrive at its destination by the New Year! (sorry, sis!) But best of all for keeping the peace (and the joy!) of Christmas is spending time in the quiet of morning, or at the hearing of a carol, pondering the mystery and wonder of Christmas.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory…”

Or as a modern Christmas anthem puts it:

"God Invisible appears, endless ages wrapped in years"*

I've heard more than enough of "I'll be home for Christmas" and "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow". But what other time of year is the Gospel played and sung so unapologetically in public places? Have you heard it? O come, oh come Emmanuel…Joy to the World—the Lord is come; let earth receive her King… O Holy night, when Christ was born…The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

People with little personal connection to the words they are singing, declare the gospel for all to hear. And surely some hear and wonder… Yes, amidst all the Jingle bells and Silver bells, manger scenes too are extolled in song. Over the din of busyness and the distraction of giving and getting, there is a real reason for hope, for joy, for celebration—God was born a boy-child to reconcile us to Himself! This is news we can't let slide. And somehow it's got to make a difference in the way we do Christmas. If Mighty God has lived where we do He knows the crush of pressing details, of endless opportunity to serve, of what it means to walk in the world to the beat of a different Drummer (and I don’t meant the Little Drummer Boy!!).

Even on the nights when to-do lists loom large, especially on those nights, it's worth meditating on the one reason worth losing sleep over—A Savior has been born to you—Come and see!!

That was the announcement that left the shepherds sleepless and sheepless rushing to the stable. Nothing else mattered! Only one great joy filled their minds with intent—to find that baby and bow in wonder.

Years later a Mary from another story would sit in awe at Jesus' feet. No longer in a stable, He was grown now and in her home visiting. Imagine getting ready for that event?! No wonder her sister, Martha, was anxious and "troubled about many things". Mothers understand. Christmastime gets like this. In the bustle to celebrate Jesus' birth we so easily relegate conversing with Him to second priority. But Jesus said only one thing was needful and Mary had found it. (Luke 10:41-42) This was the best part for her—the being able to sit at His feet and listen to Him teach. 

Mary and Jesus

Can you picture her face, her posture, her heart? In my mind's eye is a picture from an old children's Bible we read to our own kids, of a young Mary sitting adoringly at Jesus' feet with eager face upturned, listening… Recalling it when I am 'troubled about many things' reminds me of the one thing that is needful—O Come, Let Us Adore Him…

And I’ve found it this week to be the cure for insomnia brought on by lurking lions preying on sleeping mothers… Counting sheep is futile. But there is a shepherd who cares. Will I wait on Him to direct my limited energies? He is no Santa but I can trust Him with my Christmas lists. He invites me to make my requests and leave my lists in a heap at His feet. Then to sit awhile and listen for His words to quiet my soul..

When I turn my attention not to counting 'to do's, but to counting on Him to do what is best, rest returns. Only when I insist on doing it all am I anxious.  I can do nothing of value without Him.  And did you notice His solution for Martha was not to pitch in and help her get it all done?!  My lists too may need revising in light of what's important about CHRISTmas.  Am I OK with that?  Can I stop striving to think of the perfect present and trust Him to direct my thoughts and efforts?  He is after all the Giver of all good gifts (Ja.1:17).  Surely I can trust Him with those I care most about.  Will I cast my cares on Him and rest under His mighty hand? He gives to His beloved sleep, but only if we’re willing to rest in His care.

These are things not worth losing sleep over…


It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. [Unless the Lord participates in your Christmas preparations, you labor in vain that prepare.] Ps.127:1-2 Amplified by me!

Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come…and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood---and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen! Rev. 1:4-6

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! II Cor.9:15


*"God Invisible appears, endless ages wrapped in years" [Words by Charles Wesley and Bob Kauflin]

Lyrics are from “Glory be to God” from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man by Sovereign Grace Music.  I highly recommend this all-original Christmas themed album, as its lyrics point solidly in a fresh way to the reasons we have to celebrate!  Have a listen here:

[Above illustration is by Donald Kueker in The Bible for Children, Tyndale Publ:1990, p.1184.]

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