A few days ago I sat in a circle of women and we talked about our good Christmas memories and what's hard about Christmas for us. Talking about the hard stuff brought out strong emotions. Tears. We were all blessed with some happy memories, but we all had sad spots too. There's no candy-coating that stuff. It's messy.
What do we do? Recoil from the pain? Medicate it? Grit our teeth until it's over?
The problem isn't Christmas, it's just that somewhere along the way we got the idea that in this season we would stop being...people. Perhaps that reality is amplified by the fact that for a few days we think we should pretend we're not? The stress that comes with all the expectations just seems to further reveal how very human we are and it's disappointing.
My husband and I come from very different "cultural" backgrounds in the way we celebrate the season. Honestly, it can be hard. We've tried to make our own traditions, but before I was his wife I was a daughter. I try to honour him and not disappoint my family. Mostly I feel torn. I haven't handled that very well this year. The truth has leaked out. Honestly, I'm more comfortable and feel safer when I can pretend everything's okay. I worry about rocking his boat, about disappointing my family, about distressing my kids with my sadness... It's into exactly this kind of turmoil that a baby was born and placed into a manger...destined to give the ultimate sacrifice so that we could somehow forgive, be healed, and be at rest. Even when people disagree or are disappointed.
I want to be more real this Christmas--in fact, it's not that noble at all--I seem to be unable to pretend. I hope I'm demonstrating to my kids the reality that we're all so very human--not pretend--and that real people go kneel at the manger. That Christ didn't come to shiny Christmas tree and a picture-perfect scene, but that He came into the mess and showed His love. It's kind of awkward and unattractive, but I'm finding His peace here in this place of kneeling, desperate worship. We're drawing closer together. I think that's why He came.
Christmas isn't like a Hallmark card. It's much more like a stinky stable...full of, well, the stuff stables are full of. The relief comes when all the broken, weary, flea-bitten people gather 'round God-made-flesh and worship. When, rather than running, medicating, enduring, we seek His healing and refuge.
The answer isn't to skip the season--it's to seek Him in it.
The Lord is good,
a strong refuge when trouble comes.
He is close to those who trust in him.