Searching for holy

It’s been five years now since I asked, if I promised to do the leg work, if we could include a live nativity in the Christmas party for low income, pregnant and newly parenting women and their families.  I relished serving every holiday season and it became the highlight of our families calendar every December.  But I couldn’t shake the sense that it was strange hosting the event at a church, showering them with tangible blessings (toys to put under their tree, a bag of groceries, etc) – and not have anything that pointed to the heart of the season.

This year was exceptionally special because we finally had our own set of farm critters to bring to the party.  My friend Holly has always graciously brought her own for me.  It was a delight for our kids to bring their beloved animals to share with others.  It was also extra special because the friends that I spent almost two years praying for for our daughter, joined her as angels this time.  My heart nearly burst with gratitude for these sweet girls and their families who have crossed paths with ours.

4 angels

I turn to a friends’ husband last night, telling him how I find it so interesting how certain people groups, cultures tend to pay so much more mind to the nativity scene. Every year I watch this, usually there are two or three unique people groups who linger there, place their baby in the manger, take dozens of photos and exude this sense of respect, awe.

They come once, then sometimes come through again later.  I hear a little boy not more than five – I know I’ve seen him once already – he’s pushing, elbowing through the crowd that has gathered and I hear him say “move, I need to get through, I need to see Jesus”.

nativity 1

I listen to the little boy and my eyes well up because that’s all I want.

Somewhere in the midst of a wild holiday schedule and gift lists and parties and baking to do and my Christmas boxes still untouched in the garage… all I’m looking for is a glimpse of something holy.

A taste of the miracle that God came down.  Emmanuel.

My hands are a little numb and the earthy smell of the animals and their wet fur and hay meets my nose.  It may not be Bethlehem and the night is surely anything but a silent one – but I breathe cold air in deep and ponder the baby laid in straw in the manger a few feet from me and can’t help but feel a sliver of the “holy night” that came so long ago.

He could have come any way He wanted.  But this, this was the way He chose.  Innocent, small, helpless and perfect.


He would walk among us.  Live among us.  Know loss and heartache and struggle and unspeakable joy in the midst of all of it.

Emmanuel.  God among us.  Not God-in-heaven-distant-one.

God with us, with me.  One who is intimately acquainted with sorrows.  One who understands pain and the deepest heart sadness.  One who came so I would know what life to the very fullest would look like.  One who hears every word I utter and all the ones I can’t.

Deeply, unceasingly grateful.  For all that He is and how He fills in the places that need filling in.  Brimming at the very thought that God would choose this way, this simple manger in the back of an inn instead of a royal palace….so that I would know, so we all could know, that His gift is for everyone.   For me with the dishes undone from 5 days ago and shredded stuffed animal all over this room and no clean clothes ready for kids tomorrow.  And for every other person who feels a little less than worthy.

He came for you.  He is Emmanuel.

looking at baby


Beth Stedman

Beautiful, Karissa! Thank you for this moment of praise.