Sunday, December 22, 2013

I hate Christmas. Terrible of me, but ... there it is.

As with everything else in my life lately, I’ve been wondering why. This can’t be right—normal, maybe, in the sense of understandable in the logical progression of what has seemed sometimes to be a most illogical life—but is this where God wants me to be?

I seriously doubt it. How can He be pleased with my impatience over the countdown to the holiday, my annoyance at the anticipation of gifts and food and gathering with family? Seriously—I’m just revealing the depths of my emotional poverty here, aren’t I?

And isn’t that just a fancy term for selfishness?

Christmas, after all, is about the laying down of a life so that others may live.

Whether or not December 25 is the actual date of Jesus’ birth is immaterial. (I think it’s more likely that this time of year is when He was conceived—coinciding with Hanukkah—but, that’s another discussion, and it still lends significance to the season.) Certain things are still true—the birth of one small babe to a newly wedded couple who, despite what I’m sure had to be the opinion of all their family and neighbors, hadn’t yet consummated their marriage. The rush and commotion and sheer stress of their journey to Bethlehem to obey the edict of a pagan emperor. The humility of the birth itself—in a cave, where the animals were kept. Were Mary and Joseph alone for the birth? Did other travelers share their space? Did God provide a midwife, or did Joseph “catch”?

I think of Mary, facing the birth of her first baby in a strange place. Of Joseph, and the terror of watching his wife labor with a baby that was not “his.” (And had that really been an angel in his dreams, telling him the baby was conceived of the Holy Spirit?)

I think of God, clothing Himself with flesh, submitting Himself to the humiliation of becoming a growing fetus, of the birth process, of being a naked and crying infant. He took on poverty ... so that He could meet us, in ours.

Christmas isn’t really about the gifts, when God already presented us with the greatest one there is. Neither is it about the wonderful food, or even the enjoyment of others’ company. It is, however, about wonder—of a Creator who stooped to rescue His creation in the midst of all its messy need. Who continues to meet me in mine, when I’m stressed and tired and sure I can’t bear even one more of the many demands on my time and energy from those I love.

When I think about that, I find that I don’t hate Christmas, after all. What I hate is my own need and weakness, luring me into the trap of thinking the holiday is somehow about me, when—it is not.

Or is it? The glorious God of the universe, after all, became a child, to grow into a man and to die, as a sacrifice—for me.

And for you.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2, NKJV)


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