December 25 has come and gone, and today I sit pondering…what is this thing called Christmas and can we celebrate it well? The world tells us we are to be filled with joy and wonder. We are called to celebrate the birth of a Savior. How does one honor a Jesus who has been lost amidst the shopping bags and the self-importance of the “chosen” few who claim to know THE Christ.
At Anchors and Masts, Tess speaks of Christmas as a time for families. As I spent the weeks leading up to the holidays listening to individuals who struggled with going home or not going home, I became increasingly aware of the damage we do to each other and ourselves in the name of family and in the name of Christ. We seem to forget that Jesus’ own genealogy was filled not only with God's faithful, but also “adulterers, murderers, rebels, conspirators, transgressors of all sorts, both the fearful and the bold.”*
We seek impossible perfection. We say, Put on a happy face. Go to church. Celebrate with your family – even if it hurts. So, I ask again...what is this thing called Christmas and can we celebrate it well? My family experienced a fabulously messy Christmas this year with lots of tears and gales of laughter. I had a little meltdown in front of a visiting nephew - surprising and amazingly good. It opened our hearts to see and know that we’re all human and no one is exempt from life’s hard times. My ancestral crew doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell portrait (although heaven knows we’ve tried at times!). We are a messy, wonderful, wild, American family complete with our own rebels and transgressors, both fearful and bold!
One relation would give anything to be with us and can’t. Another holds a perpetual scowl in our presence. A devout Christian refuses “real wine” communion, then ladles on spoonful after spoonful of Port sauce at dinner. We make small talk. We cry and shout. Laugh and play games. Show love and gratitude. Display our rough edges.
Christmas Eve, I oohed and aaahed over the sweetness of the Christmas pageant, then wept sobbing tears, because it was too much to bear. A brief while later I was bursting with gratitude and joy for the gathering around my table. My heart was filled to the brim and broken wide open all at the same time.
Obviously, Christmas brings up LOTS of emotions (at least for me!) It is a great metaphor for life. The mess and the beauty. I love it and I hate it. I overflow with joy one moment and I burst into tears the next. Bottom line – Christmas is hard and Christmas is wonderful. I think I felt every emotion possible in the last three days. It’s no wonder I’m exhausted today and just a little bit weepy with no solid answer to my own question… what is this thing called Christmas and can we celebrate it well?
*Kathleen Norris - "God with Us"