A couple Easters ago I blogged about the fire that ripped through Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The damage was extensive and pictures of the aftermath went round the world, particularly one photo a journalist took of a gold cross rising up from the charred interior.
I thought of that image this morning as the metaphorical remains of my Christmas plans smouldered, burnt by the flame of a virus nobody had heard of a year ago.
Wave after wave of government regulation has erased December festivities from my calendar. First, carol singing in church was off the cards. Next the late-night shopping trip with my girls. Finally lunch in a country pub was ruled out.
It has been disappointing and hard.
And yet this stripping back, this slow dismantling of all my regular Christmas activities has made space for a something really special. Like the gold cross in the Paris cathedral, I have been reminded that the manger is enough.
When I really lean in to it, the wonder of the Bethlehem miracle is absolutely and wonderfully sufficient. The reality of this Divine rescue mission, when all history was split between BC and AD, is enough to fill my Christmas with the meaning I crave.
The Bethlehem stable doesn’t need glitter glue or ambient music to make it magical. It already is. It doesn’t need rebranding or relaunching or rewriting. It doesn’t need professional lighting or backing tracks or better PR. It needs only one thing. It needs to be believed.
And I do believe it.
I believe God became man. I believe that single miraculous event changed history and believing in it has irreversibly changed mine. To believe God could become incarnate is mind-blowing. Believing that He willingly would has been life-changing.
The manger is enough.
There is enough wonder in the story to make this Christmas overflow with it. There is enough hope for us all to drink deep. There is enough joy to answer every disappointment 2020 handed out.
I look forward with anticipation to next year when those I love sit around my table, when our family traditions can continue, when church is in full voice and my Christmas is full of hugs and kisses and board games and laughter.
But for now the gift I have been given is the opportunity to put the manger front and centre of my Christmas, even more than usual. There is a quietness in my routine that has made space for worship. There is head space to pray for the recipients of gifts I am wrapping and slow mornings to read the gospel accounts with faith and wonder.
There is nothing I can add to make the Christmas story more beautiful. It sparkles without any lights, it shines with no tinsel, its melody needs no accompaniment.
And I am falling in love with this story all over again.
‘Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.’ Corrie Ten Boom