My three-year old whirlwind came barreling into my bathroom, panic stricken.
Mommy! Mommy! I can’t find it. I can’t find the wheels. I so sorry. I so sorry I broke it.
Chubby fingers revealed the broken portion of a Christmas ornament. Santa and a teddy bear in a Model-T. It was the third casualty since our tree went up the night before. I could see his remorse. But this one? This ornament?
Within its cheap plastic were twenty years of prayers for Lymel, a boy living in the New Orleans projects. A boy I met as a teen on a mission trip. I had sent him the same ornament. Mine has since hung each year in the green pine boughs of my Christmas tree, a reminder to pray for Lymel—the sweet boy from our broken world.
And now I held the broken pieces of his ornament in my hands, my last connection to the little soul with a bright smile and impoverished existence. He stopped writing back years ago.
I would like to pretend I behaved like a good Christian mother. I would like to pretend I didn’t freak out. I would like to pretend those things. But I can’t. I went mom-crazy. The kind of mom-crazy we never post on Facebook, because—what would the neighbors think? Who wants to display their broken to the world?
Fussing and fuming. Digging through the tree and moving couches to find the missing pieces of this ornament I treasured. My boy crying in the background. My girl frantic and helping me search. Not my proudest moment.
Resigning myself to lost pieces, I stared in the bathroom mirror, covering the blemishes and uneven places on my skin. Only then did I see the blemishes and uneven places on my heart. Really, it was just a piece of plastic. And in truth, my son later found the broken parts. It was an easy fix.
But in those quiet moments, I knew. When guilt pressed down and the deep waters rose. When my failings as a mom stared back at me in the mirror. When I realized I was just a broken mess. In those moments, I knew why Love came down.
I knew why God left the light-perfect heavens to join a dark-damaged world. Why He would choose to be born so He could one day die.
He became Emmanuel because we’re all a broken, fragile mess. Christmas came for the ripped up, snapped-in-two, brokenness of the soul.
A babe was born because the hollow ache in our souls needed the grace of flesh and blood to fill the deep cracks. Because brokenness can only ever be mended with the manger and the cross—both splintered and rough, cradling and crucifying the Healer of our wounds.
The cross cannot exist without the manger. Only Love could fill both. By His stripes we’re healed. And in that manger lay the hopes of every fractured soul begging to be mended. So Jesus came. Yes. Love came down because Christmas is for the broken.
Heather Iseminger, her husband Michael, and their two children live in Florida. Heather teaches high school language and composition. You can read more from Heather at her blog, PetalsofJoy.org.