When the Visions Aren’t Sugarplums
I wrote the following many years ago, and the Holy Spirit still ministers to me through this story after all this time. I hope you also find some peace in this reminder of God’s truth.
It’s only eleven days until Christmas. I know this because my kids have been counting down for weeks. They have been telling me that once we reach ten days before Christmas then it will seem real: Christmas is almost here.
The presents are under the tree. We’re singing Christmas carols. Our beloved light up Rudolph is blinking his cheery red nose, and the baby is in the manger where He should be, laid out gently on the shabby-pretty dresser that I picked up at a local junk store. Everything is in order for a merry Christmas.
A few nights ago I was sleeping soundly when creaking boards in the hallway warned me that some shadowy figure was heading my way. I could see her gangly preteen silhouette in the doorway. “Mama,” she said tearfully, “I had a bad dream.”
I sat up sleepily and motioned for her to come to me, and she sat on my bed while I covered her with my blanket. “What was it?” I whispered.
She told me the story that her subconscious had dreamed up. How she was walking on a dirt road someplace when she saw two of them coming. ISIS. With nowhere to hide, she laid down and played dead. They approached her, two men with guns. “Is this one dead yet?” one man asked the other. They could see her breathing. “No” was the simple reply before they picked her up by her shirt collar and shot her on the spot.
The shot still rang in her terrified ears when she opened her eyes and felt relief that she was safely tucked into the top bunk, with her brother snoring comfortingly below. But the horror of the scene still played in her head, and she made her way across creaking boards to my room, because mamas can usually manage to fix whatever ails you.
I patted her and hugged her and agreed that it was certainly a bad dream. In a few minutes I led her back to her bed, right past the baby in the manger so delicately displayed, as if He is breakable.
I wondered, as I covered her with a fluffy purple blanket, when her visions of sugarplums turned into horror stories. I wondered how we got here, eleven days before Christmas, while peace is so painfully absent from this earth. I wondered what terror and death and evil and darkness have to do with the sweet scene of a tender baby sleeping on a bed of hay. And then I remembered.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
We human beings, we just keep wandering. Feeling our way through the dark, wallowing in the evils that our hearts keep inventing. We run as far as we can, and we pretend we’re wise and enlightened. Everything inside of the human heart says no to God. Without that little baby, that dear, sweet manger child, there is simply no way to outrun the nightmares, to escape the terrors.
The infant who looks so cheek-pinchable, so lacking in might and power– there He is, on his adorable little bed of straw. We sing about Him and aww over His cute little swaddling, forgetting that He is the Lion of Judah. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We forget that He is the Beginning and the End. He came to seek and to save what was lost, and He will get what He came for.