It’s almost Christmastime.
In many ways, the season has already begun—Christmas music on the radio, Christmas movies on Netflix. We even got our Christmas tree this past Sunday, much to our kittens’ amazement and delight—and some scolding as we learn the Christmas tree is for looking at, lying under, and gently playing with the lower branches, NOT for climbing 🙂 .
But it won’t really feel like Christmas to me until Advent begins this coming Sunday. How about you?
In other ways, though, I feel we’ve been preparing for and holding Christmas in our hearts all autumn. My family’s theater company is preparing to produce a brand-new Christmas musical, with a script written by me and the beautiful music of Christian composer and lyricist Michael Card. You might remember a blog about the reading we did of The Promise a couple of years ago; now the Lord has opened the doors for us to produce the full show.
With teaching, marriage, and commuting, I haven’t been able to be very involved in this labor of love my amazing family and our incredible cast have been engaged in since September. But it has been a precious, humbling, and surreal experience to see the Lord bringing this show to life. An intimate retelling of the Nativity story with a mostly adult cast, The Promise takes a closer look at what it might have felt like for those real people—Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi—whose lives were turned upside down when God invaded our dark and dirty world as a tiny baby to be Immanuel…God with us.
It’s been a beautiful process. But it hasn’t been easy. We’ve lost cast members to family crises and unknown reasons. My mom and I have had unexpected and scary health episodes, though we’re better now. We’ve searched and searched for actors to play a few last key roles. More than one of us have experienced unusual levels of stress and anxiety.
Our theater company, which was created to honor the Lord, bless relationships, and pursue excellence through the arts, has always experienced spiritual warfare when putting on a show. But with this one, perhaps because it is so explicitly focused on Jesus and His coming, the heat has never felt fiercer. We’re so grateful for those who have held us in prayer throughout this production, and now as we prepare to open next (!) week.
The Lord has been faithful. But it hasn’t been easy.
Is anything in life, though? Yet somehow I expect it to be. When conflict springs in my marriage, my default reaction is to despair and wonder, “Why does this have to be so hard?” I hate any hint of conflict and tension, while my husband doesn’t mind it, so that leads to some interesting times. 🙂
The Lord reminded me again last night that He never promised any of this—life, marriage—would be easy. After all, real-life marriage is not a Disney happily-ever-after, but a way the Lord uses to shape and refine us, as we bump up against each other with our flaws and let Him use each other to humble us and mold us more into who He created us to be.
And I remember what struck me so many times as I wrote and rewrote the script of The Promise over the past seven years—of how the journey toward that First Christmas was not at all an easy one for Mary and Joseph. I was talking it over recently with our actor friend who so beautifully portrays Joseph in our show, and he pointed out how we see this story in hindsight, and how familiar it becomes—Mary getting pregnant before she and Joseph were married, the journey to Bethlehem, Jesus born and laid in a manger. And we think, “Oh, yeah, that’s how it goes.”
But to that young couple, each of those must have been such a curveball—with no Christmas carols or Nativity scenes to give them a clue.
What do you mean, she’s pregnant?
We have to go to Bethlehem NOW, Lord?
And maybe even…Why does this have to be so hard?
But the Lord never said it would be easy to follow Him. He just said He would be with us…and it would be worth it.
And He was with Mary and Joseph, over and over…sending an angel to Joseph too, so he and Mary could be in this together. Providing for them in Bethlehem, difficult as that unexpected journey must have been. Warning them of Herod and guiding them to Egypt, in spite of the hardship of becoming refugees.
And He is with us. He has proved that over and over. And whatever you are dealing with right now, He is there, ready to be with you.
Why do you think we so easily expect things NOT to be hard? What challenges are you facing right now? How has the Lord reminded you of His Immanuel presence? I’d love to hear your thoughts.