I found a $1 treasure at a summer yard sale, an oak step stool to solve my problem.
My kids had been scaling the counters to reach cups and bowls from the cabinets, a heart-stopping feat if ever there was one.
They carried the bathroom stool out to the kitchen and left it there where it didn’t belong. It was a step stool in demand, actually. Every time we needed the stool, it was inevitably hopelessly lost in whatever room in the house we didn’t think to look.
I spotted that “new-to-us” wooden stool in that yard sale and my heart skipped happy beats of victory and accomplishment. With just a simple coat of paint, I’d have a sturdy new stool that belonged in the kitchen, kept my kids off the counters, and matched my home décor.
The first time it wobbled, we dismissed it as our own clumsiness. That’s easy to do in our house.
But the offending stool failed us again and again, causing bruises, bumps, scrapes, tears and accusations.
I gave lessons to my kids on how to keep from smashing your head on the kitchen counter. Surely, they simply needed to know “How to Stand on the Stool” and “How Not to Stand on the Stool.”
The problem, though, wasn’t our technique. The stool itself was faulty in a way a coat of paint couldn’t cover. It was treacherous and off-balance.
Finally, I admitted defeat and threw it out with the morning garbage before I added an emergency room visit to my daily agenda.
My refurbishing failure reminded me that Christ doesn’t just make things over, He doesn’t just make things pretty, He makes all things new.
More than that white covering of snow that sparkles in the moonlight and hides the wilted grass and un-raked leaves, Christmas offers us a fresh start.
But do we believe it? Do we treat ‘newness’ as little more than cosmetic refurbishing? A coat of paint, perhaps, and God sends us on our merry way with a façade of Christian niceties covering over a truly treacherous human condition?
Scripture is radical in its promise:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)
God’s work in us isn’t just life with a Christian ‘varnish.’ He promises to remove the diseased and petrified heart that plagues our life with sin and transplant in us a new heart of flesh, a heart where His Spirit dwells.
It’s complete. It’s not refurbishing a $1 step stool and hoping you don’t gash your head open when you use it. It’s not ‘settling’ for a little bit of God in a big pile of mess.
More than this. Oh, so much more.
It isn’t God handing us a 12-step instruction sheet with complicated diagrams and a paint kit and telling us to go make a new heart.
That’s the law. That’s us trying to get it all right. Trying to be perfect. Trying to reach heaven on our own tip-toes (maybe with a faulty step-stool).
That’s us landing on the ground again, worn and weary, exhausted from trying so hard to stop the wobbling, the failure, the mess the brokenness.
That’s us trying to hold it all together and still finding that it falls all apart.
But Christmas is God come down; not us reaching up high enough to touch Him. Christmas is God’s gift, God at work, God-with-grace, God-with us.
Too often, we make it all about us. What we have to do to make Christmas perfect. What we have to accomplish in our homes and in our hearts: The projects, the parties, the get-togethers, the programs, the traditions, the attempts to pack more meaning into something so deep-down meaningful.
And we almost miss it. For all the to-do, we almost miss this:
Christmas is about Him.
He will take us as we are and He will make us new. It’s all in His big hands, big enough to hold us all together, big enough to heal, strong enough to carry us right on through.
Originally published 12/15/2014