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Have Yourself an R-rated Christmas

Imagine a flannelgraph Christmas story that includes Mary overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, a pregnant Mary walking past smirking Nazarites, the dirt and dung of a real stable, the virgin birth (the real thing in a strange town, Mary crying and bleeding), Simeon warning that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart, Roman soldiers thrusting their swords into the hearts of Bethlehem babies while mothers scream and claw at them.

You could even imagine Coventry Carol playing in the background, “…then woe is me poor child for thee, and ever mourn and say, “for thy parting nor say nor sing, bye bye lully lulay.”


Imagine a flannelgraph Christmas story that includes Mary overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, a pregnant Mary walking past smirking Nazarites, the dirt and dung of a real stable, the virgin birth (the real thing in a strange town, Mary crying and bleeding), Simeon warning that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart, Roman soldiers thrusting their swords into the hearts of Bethlehem babies while mothers scream and claw at them.

You could even imagine Coventry Carol playing in the background, “…then woe is me poor child for thee, and ever mourn and say, “for thy parting nor say nor sing, bye bye lully lulay.”

Woven throughout Scripture is a major theme of overcoming, hope and love triumphant. But creating the great tension in God’s drama of redemption is also a minor theme of loss, brokenness and pain. We have so sanitized and romanticized Christmas.

But bracketing the stillpoint of history when all was “silent night, calm and bright,” we find an unfathomable union of spirit and flesh raising issues of credibility, shame, betrayal and the threat of divorce on one end and fearful warnings and mass murder on the other. It is the stuff of great novels and action thrillers as well as daytime soaps.

God’s invasion of our world was an intimate invasion: the creator of the Eagle nebulae and Mt. Everest and Niagra Falls became an infant in Mary’s virgin womb. God used intimate means to accomplish intimate ends.

God invaded Mary’s deepest heart—that place where each of us as a woman wonders, Do you notice me? Choose me? Cherish me?
The angel Gabriel assured her…”Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” God has noticed you. God delights in you.
You will conceive in your womb and bear a son…” Mary…God has chosen…YOU.

God also invaded Mary’s body. What is more intimate than childbirth? You push and sweat and hurt and bleed and finally this beautiful new creature emerges from the darkness into the light. In one instant, the moment you cradle him in your arms, your love explodes.

Perhaps Mary prayed for God to be pleased with her and honored in her life. I can just picture God smiling down at her…Mary, you have no idea.

God longs to invade our deepest hearts and shatter our most intimate dreams and replace them with his great, Kingdom dreams. He does not want us to settle for living small. He invites us to a heart relationship with the creator of the universe. He wants to make us ultimately the kind of person he can set free to reign with him in his universe.

To do that, he has to change us and grow us in the deepest part of our hearts. He has to grow our vision and transform us from “one degree of glory to the next.” And that change usually involves the minor theme somehow—it takes pain.

When we read of the most significant works of God—incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection—we always see the glory of the major theme shine more brightly, bring more joy, as we see it in rising out of the minor theme of pain, suffering and loss. Like diamonds scattered on black velvet.

So as I consider the reality of Christmas, wrapped in a minor theme as well as a major theme, I shouldn’t wonder that when God wants to draw me closer, grow me deeper, make my life richer, give me (ultimately) more joy…that it rarely happens apart from pain, brokenness and suffering—the very R-rated stuff that he has written into the beauty and joy of Christmas.

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Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.