The Upsetting and the Unexpected: Embracing the Undoing of Christmas

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By Anne Marie Schlueter

We have so many expectations for the end of the year, as well as Christmas. Expectations for ourselves, for those around us, for our lives.

I came into Advent thinking that I had a lot of things figured out which, as it turns out, are very unfigured out. This season seems to emphasize messiness, for better or for worse. And I’m seeing that the closer you get to the manger, the more undone you become.

You can’t hide from Light that is obsessed with encompassing even the darkest parts of your heart. You can’t hide from a God who put it all on the line to restore. He never stops chasing, He never stops invading.

I’ve found that I’m not alone in the tension of upset plans and unexpected realities. Perhaps that’s exactly what Christmas is all about.

It all started with a simple “yes” before the answers, before the game plan was revealed. Just “yes” to what was offered, to what was asked. One question, on the foundation of knowledge of identity: the daughter knew her Father, and that was enough, without the answers.

Mary’s “yes” didn’t launch her into a world of solutions to the problems that the unexpected inevitably brought about. When the Father invites us to open our hearts to newness, the certainty we’re offering is knowing that, not knowing how. Knowing that He never lets us down. Knowing that He never leaves. Knowing that He’s always victorious.

Not really knowing how that looks practically all the time.

And, because we’re human, we try to take from the pieces that we do have to construct a full picture. To construct a plan to prevent our hearts from breaking (again) and allow us to hold the reigns of control.

Except: when we say yes to something greater than ourselves, we can’t keep our plans. We have to allow Him to upset our plans, and we have to choose to worship in the unexpected. We have to let our hearts be undone: what we thought we knew, who we thought He was, who we thought we were.

Some of the most powerful worship comes from the place of the undoing. That space where you’ve been knocking at the door of the inn and they’re all full or nobody is even answering, and suddenly you find yourself in a stable. When plans are upset and whatever was expected, whatever was sure, whatever was hoped for  is nowhere to be found. When looking straight down at what’s been handed to you, and you see absolutely no reason to trust, because there’s absolutely no reason to believe that good comes, because that’s not where your heart is at.

But worship in this space enables a step to be taken back, breath to be breathed where the air is suffocating. Worship enables us to look further back, recognizing His faithfulness, seeing all the places that he’s come through. Answers to how and why might not be here, but He is.

And if He’s here, this is the safest place to be upset, to let it all go. Here, at the feet of Love Himself, the unexpected becomes the miracle. Here, we can allow ourselves to just be undone.

“Just be in the mess,” I’ve been told. He didn’t hesitate to do the same.

I wonder if Mary’s heart screamed out as it encountered the unexpected some nights, even as she chose peace and joy. There is power in the praise that is lifted through tears. There’s a reason it’s called a sacrifice of praise.

So let’s be like wrapping paper, after the present is opened. Let’s just be undone, hiding nothing. Nothing left to contain or obtain at the feet of the King. The feet of baby Jesus in a manger, perfect and pure.

Christmas is about a God who upset all of our plans and did the unexpected, removing all of the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves and allowing us to just be undone. This is the undoing space. There’s even an undoing of the expectations we’ve placed on Him, the boxes and the labels, the neatness that we’ve encased Him in.

Christmas is so not an emotion, so if you’re not feeling the whole WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT rush, then, just breathe. You don’t need to get hype and scream about lights.

The best way to enter into Christmas and end this year might not be to have this perfect version of yourself to present, with all the ends tied up. It might just be to enter into the mess, and give Him the mess-- because that’s why He came.

He wants to be present in the mess of the upsetting, of the unexpected. Let’s be undone in the simplicity of the stable, where we can have total confidence that all is made right before we can even see it. Come to the manger, for there is no better time to worship than when we are undone. Where He is, there is peace, beyond circumstances.

Be at peace.