There’s nothing quite like receiving visitors after giving birth. Once the adrenaline fades, you feel like you’ve been abducted by aliens and had your body used for scientific experiments. After surviving the probing and torturing, you are brutally dropped fifty-thousand feet from their spaceship into a hospital bed, just in time for company to arrive. No tea and scones to offer, just stale Saltines and water from a pink plastic pitcher.
Mary must have experienced this sensation after she gave birth to Jesus. First of all, she survived childbirth without an epidural or ice chips. If someone had asked me to give birth to my children in such primitive conditions, I would have laughed them out of Bethlehem. After surviving this ordeal, Mary was faced with a visiting group of excited shepherds. I can remember fearing the arrival of the night janitor.
What was going through Mary’s mind as these strange men arrived at the scene? I know what I would be thinking.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Congratulations! You just won the Most Awkward Visitor Award! Can I offer you something to eat? Here, chew on some hay.
I like to imagine that this is when the tradition of making Christmas cookies began. Mary was mortified at being unable to prepare food for her guests, so she had Joseph do it. What would happen if you put a guy in charge of refreshments? You’d get cookies that look like they were made by children. Although they wouldn’t have been in the shape of reindeer and Santa. Maybe donkeys and Moses.
Despite being insanely busy, I decided to make Christmas cookies with my kids this year. I mostly caved because rumor has it that if you skip this tradition, you may suffer nightmares involving the Gingerbread Man freaking out because he has no thumbs to make Thumbprint cookies. I’ve always been afraid of the Gingerbread Man. If dessert can come to life and taunt you, just imagine what a bad batch of eggs might do.
With Christmas carols blasting, we got to work. The kids picked out their favorite cookie shapes: trees, reindeer, and stars. The bell and wreath are kind of like Monopoly’s shoe and thimble; no one ever wants them. I found myself forcing the kids to include these pariah-shapes, as if they would end up in therapy for self-esteem issues.
I tried to roll out the dough, but the gluten-free goo was so sticky, it would have been easier to just shove our cookie cutters into a honeycomb. The final results were more frightening than any potential Gingerbread Man nightmares. Instead of visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, my children would see decapitated reindeer and diseased Christmas trees. The kids soon ran off to play, leaving me to bake the cookies.
When the cookies were finished, I removed them from the oven and popped in a batch of pumpkin seeds to roast while the children were still playing. Just as I was opening the oven to remove the seeds, my four-year-old rounded the corner. He took one look at those tiny seeds and screamed.
“What happened to our COOKIES!!! Aaaghhh!”
I never intended to traumatize my children with baking Christmas cookies. I was only trying to build memories with a bonding tradition. Instead I had given them unwanted cookie shapes, mutilated those shapes beyond recognition, and scared them into thinking the cookies had morphed into seeds. Charlie Brown was looking like a Christmas hero compared to me.
Suddenly I was in a Christmas special of my own, as I heard my children singing Christmas carols in the living room. I peeked around the corner and saw them holding hands and singing “Silent Night” to the baby Jesus doll they had placed in a “manger” under the tree. Poor Jesus was dressed in a pink dress, but at least my kids were living the real meaning of Christmas.
After the shepherds’ visit to baby Jesus, they set the gold standard for celebrating Christmas.
Luke 2:17-18, 20
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen…
As my kids lovingly caressed the baby doll, I was reminded that Christmas is not about cookies or the Gingerbread Man. It’s about THE MAN. The Not-Gingerbread Man, who arrived as a precious baby. He was born to a woman who had no Christmas cookies to offer. Humbly, she gave the world the most priceless gift of all: a Savior.