It’s December 13th and today it really hit me that Christmas is quickly approaching. I live in one of those neighborhoods where people tend to get a little over-zealous with their Christmas cheer in the form of intricate light displays, only complete with motorized lawn ornaments or, say, a giant inflatable Santa waving from a giant inflatable hot air balloon (oh yes, that is real). Plus, it finally rained today so I guess the combination of the two really forced me to accept that Christmas is a mere three weeks away.
Maybe I should give the disclaimer now that this probably won’t be the merriest post about Christmas that you’ll read this holiday season. I’m coming out of the closet, so to speak. The closet stuffed with garland and cinnamon pine cones and tree skirts. I’ve gotta be real. Christmas is hard for me.
I’m not really sure when it became this way. Maybe it has been for years and I’m just now realizing it (thanks to my therapist for shining the light on that one). I don’t want to come across like a total Scrooge, though. There are things I absolutely LOVE about Christmas, especially now that I’m a mom. The movie Elf has to be one of the funniest movies EVER in the history of funny. So there’s that.
And it’s not even like Christmas is so hard because of all the financial stress and the gifting pressure and the receiving pressure. Let’s be honest, that all exists right? It sucks to budget and stress over what to get people, which people you will be giving to (and not giving to) based on the expectations of who thinks they should be receiving. Did you follow me? That was weird. I’m saying it’s frustrating and there’s this pressure to get the gifts right and if you don’t it’s so disappointing. And then there’s the receiving and how it does feel kind of crappy when you receive gifts that seem arbitrary. There’s a lot going on here in this paragraph, I’m going to move on.
So, yes, all of that gifting stuff does add to what makes Christmas hard. But that’s not the worst of it.
A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine who lost her baby this year. When Christmas came into the conversation she said, “I’ll just have to make the best of it.” It was as if she was already anticipating that Christmas would bring her sorrow. Why is that? Why is it that Christmas brings sadness when it should bring joy?
This year, my grandma has taken a turn for the worse. I wish I could describe in words so that you could fully understand the beauty that this woman exuded. She was so vibrant, confident, unbreakable. She had a singing voice that, at least in my mind, compared to Celine Dion. She was a star. Then slowly, dementia set in and her light is fading with it. She stopped singing. Now she can hardly walk. Please don’t judge my honesty here… I dread seeing her in this state. It absolutely breaks my heart.
Now, this is why Christmas is so hard. Christmas is full of life. It is bright and merry, full of wondrous expectation. It makes us all feel young. It should make us all feel happy.
But it doesn’t always work that way.
Because in stark contrast to the beauty and life and bright shiny lights is the reality of life. Divorced families. Failing health. Lost loved ones. The dark presence of what hurts us is in stark contrast to the brightness of what Christmas represents. It brings it all out. Because there’s this small (or large) part of us that just can’t fully be as joyous as Christmas advertises.
But then there is something more. Something beyond the gifts and eggnog and obnoxious decorations. There’s the expectation of magic. Of miracles.
This makes sense right? Of course it does because Christmas isn’t even really about any of those things anyway. It’s about the birth of the Son of God into this world. Brought into this world by a miracle. Something that shouldn’t have happened did. Something that’s very purpose was to restore all of the brokenness of humanity.
And it will. The birth of Jesus brought us hope. And now, after the fact, we wait. We wait for everything to be restored for God’s glory when Jesus returns.
The aching that we feel is the reminder within us that all is not right- yet. No amount of caroling, or gifting, or mistletoe or egg nog can bring us the lasting relief that will come when Jesus returns. Christmas gives us glimpses of peace and joy but it is merely a glimpse. That is the reality that we all live in until Christ returns on that glorious day.
That all being said, this year I am vowing to focus on the first miracle of Christmas. I want to stay close to God through advent devotionals on a daily basis. I’m sick of the stress and the disappointment. Those things will still be there, I’m sure, but they won’t carry as much weight. I’m not going to give Christmas the responsibility of making me happy this year. You hear that Christmas? You’re off the hook. I’m putting my expectations in their rightful place.