The Christmas decorations are up. Shiny packages are tucked under my tree. I’ve got cookies in the oven, Chex mix cooling on the counter, and Michael Buble’ is crooning Christmas carols in the background as I work on my list for Christmas dinner.

Seems like Norman Rockwell must have visited, right? Well, if he had, he surely would have left in a hurry. In case things aren’t quite so rosy in your world, here’s the rest of the story: The dishes are piled in the sink, and there is flour and other ingredients scattered all over the kitchen floor. There’s no downy snow blanketing my lawn, but my house is adorned with a thick layer of dust, and I just might have “tested" enough of my cooking to nudge myself out of my Christmas outfit.

Most would admit, if only to themselves, their lives are not perfect; but the very honest would confess that, at one point or another, they’ve had moments where the real reason we celebrate Christmas has gotten buried or even discarded. Amidst personal trials, mass shootings, acts of terrorism and catastrophes, the birth of our Savior seems more like a fairytale to some, and for many, a fairytale without a happy ending.

But Jesus is no fairy, and His life is not a tale — it’s the answer.

The Father’s plan for our redemption is perfect, as is His plan for each one of us, no matter the circumstances of our lives. Most would imagine our King adorned in jewels and fine linens, coming to us on a powerful, white stallion. A child born to a virgin, in a cold, smelly stable, surrounded by animals rather than noblemen, was not exactly something any of us would have come up with — not even close. It was the humility of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that God wanted to show us, and His ability to bring something powerful out of what looks to be weak and undesirable.

When we look at this world through the lenses of our own weaknesses, limitations and fears, we tend to lose hope and become hardened. But when we look at the world through the eyes of the One who created everything good, we can see miracles, and that the best is yet to come.

During our lifetime, there will be joyful Christmases, and some also might be filled with sorrow. Our lasting peace and happiness will not come in shiny packages or good food. It will not come in wealth, power, fame or in sinful pleasures. Real hope and peace come in knowing God has a plan and purpose for each of us, which is to give and receive love, and to change the world for the better, through our loving example and prayers.

This Christmas, if disappointment and pain cloud your vision, or your heart feels broken, let Jesus’ humble birth, and Mary and Joseph’s obedient example, give you hope and courage to carry on, despite the trials, the illness, the loss — to believe beyond what you can see, hear and imagine. Unlike the packages and decorations that quickly disappear after Christmas, the real gift of life is eternal.

All our hope is in Christ Jesus, our King, and wise men, still seek Him.

My Christmas Prayer

On these long wintry days before Christmas,

We sometimes struggle to find Christmas joy.

Amidst a world of disappointment, destruction and sin,

We cling to hope in a small baby boy.

Our hearts ponder matters that are troubling —

The things Norman Rockwell left out.

Left with feelings of emptiness, we ask ourselves,

Is this what Christmas is about?

Still, we cannot give up on the promises of Christ;

So I am praying with passion today.

I am praying for True Love to fill every heart —

That all will seek Christ’s Light and His Way.

I pray we treasure the goodness of God,

More than fame, power or gold;

That His Spirit will stir up within us,

Great faith in the promises of old.

I pray that repentance fills our souls;

As our sinfulness pierces our being.

I pray we realize the Great Gift of redemption;

Through our Savior, Jesus, our King.

I pray the scales will fall from our eyes,

So the Truth can set us free.

I pray that “Christian” be not just a word,

But actions of love we can see.

I pray we strive to do God’s holy will,

leaving selfish ambitions behind,

To seek something higher and fight for the Truth

And justice for all mankind.

May we say “yes” like Mary, be obedient like Joseph,

As we strive to draw near to the Lamb.

May our knowledge of the true meaning of Christmas come

through our praise to the great “I Am”.

Elizabeth Schmeidler is a Christian author from Hays.