It's Christmas eve, and I am overwhelmed. I am not overwhelmed with too much left to do before Christmas morning. I am not overwhelmed with sorrows or anxieties or negative emotions that so often accompany the season. I am not even overwhelmed with too much good food.
Simply, I am overwhelmed by God.
This Christmas was supposed to be a lean Christmas. Financially things are too tight for extravagances. In the past year, my family given up a lot of our wants ... no more cable TV, no more membership to the gym, no more weekly dinners out or coffee dates at the corner coffee shop, no more piano lessons for Nathan.
Financially we were strapped for Christmas as well. I had about $60 to spend on my five children. That's $60 total ... $12 per child. At first I was overwhelmed simply thinking about how I could even begin to manage to put together Christmas with such a tiny amount of money. However, I always liked a good challenge and bargain-shopping can be fun.
In the end, I was amazed at how God blessed my efforts. I got one of my girls a brand new name-brand purse for absolutely free. I found most of my items on sale, in clearance bins, or at bargain/thrift shops. And as I wrapped up the last of the gifts, I knew my prayers had been answered.
And yet ... only $12 per child. I knew deep-down that as amazing as it was that God had provided small gifts for the children to open, it wasn't going to look like much, especially when compared to what our children's other parents would give to them. And I admit to fighting back those worries of how our meager Christmas might compare.
Tonight at about 9:30, Jon and I finished praying with our kids, tucking them under covers and kissing their foreheads. Lights were dimmed and the house was quiet. And in that stillness, our doorbell rang.
Jon went to answer it, but instead of finding a person he discovered a pile of presents. Gifts upon gifts ... more than one for each child, several for our family, even something wrapped up for Jon and for me. There was a bag of fun snack foods, the kinds that I never buy anymore on our tight budget, the very sort that make it feel like Christmas.
I am overwhelmed. This was supposed to be a lean Christmas. I didn't have any hope of putting extravagance under our tree this year.
A little over 2000 years ago, the first Christmas looked sort of bleak as well. No room in the inn. A girl and her husband ... no relatives to help them welcome their baby into the world. Instead, God showed the entire world His extravagance ... for lying in that manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, filling the night with sweet baby cries was His perfect gift. Angels from heaven came unannounced to the shepherds, proclaiming His birth and inviting them to come see the baby and worship. The shepherds found the baby, worshipped and then left, retelling the story of how extravagance came to Bethlehem and to all the world that night. And later the magnificent star led magi from the East to visit, bringing gifts fit only for the King of Kings.
Tonight there is extravagance under our tree for God sent someone to our home unannounced (like the angels came to the shepherds), bearing gifts (like the magi). And I'm overwhelmed by the extravagance of Christmas all over again.