I have a confession to make about Christmas.
There are times I wish I could go to sleep and wake up in January, with fresh starts and 12 months of “this year is going to be different” and not just two weeks of “so this didn’t turn out like you thought it would, did it?” I wish there was no such thing as Christmas lists and figuring out budgets on how much to spend on someone or the guilt because every dime spent on a toy is money not spent on buying a goat or digging a water well or being saved because God only knows what tomorrow may bring. I don’t like the huge build-up to a morning that is over in a flash and left with the dull ache of clean-up. I ache that one tree is full of gifts while another tree is barren. I hate being in one place at Christmas when people I love are in so many places and if Christmas is about love then I would love to celebrate with them all instead of just a few. The missing gets bigger at Christmas. It gets sharper, deeper, more profound.
And then there are the parts I adore, that I carry with me like baskets of beautiful. The long conversations over coffee or wine, the fragrance of warm sugar from cookies and pies and Happy Birthday Jesus cake (always Funfetti and always sprinkles on top), the getting together if only for a few moments just to hug and say “we’re here and we’re in this and we’re going to make it.” I love the miracles that happen when no one is watching, and the “for just a blink, there was peace.” I love the wonder in a child’s eyes at Christmas and the laughter that comes at the thought of someone actually knowing their name and knowing their wishes. I love snuggling under blankets by a fire and reciting the lines of movies watched over and over again. I love the stories of the past – stories that never seem to be marked by what was wrapped under the tree but rather by pages of moments tucked away like picture books. There’s spinning under lights and being awestruck by the beauty of a nativity and stopping for just a breath of a breath to remember the purpose of why all the hard and all the happy happens in the first place.
And right now, I need to stop and dwell in that purpose. I need to breathe in the reason God would robe Himself in flesh and enter a hostile world – a place that wanted to destroy Him from the start. I need to be reminded that what we long to celebrate is the very thing we so often rage against, that being saved and feeling safe aren’t one and the same, and that even the conflict I have with Christmas is a picture of the conflict that I carry in my heart – yielding to the stillness of the cradle or to the sacrifice of the cross, for the wood IS one and the same.
Christmas. God with us, in the midst and in the mess and in the missing.
“The light of the Christmas star to you. The warmth of home and hearth to you. The cheer and goodwill of friends to you. The hope of a child-like heart to you. The joy of a thousand angels to you. The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.” ~Irish Proverb
Am I the only one who struggles with Christmas? What do you do to keep the right focus this time of year?