Life is about “picking and choosing”. We do it every day, and Christmas is no exception. A friend told me that he dreads Christmas like “the plague”, because it reminds him of his losses and disappointments. So, he said he takes his family on a trip each year to get away from all the hullabaloo and reminders. No doubt, this is a common feeling. Christmas can be a stressful and depressing time of the year, especially if you focus on your losses or disappointments.
It does me no good to slam the commercialism and the hype of this time of year because as many times as I promise myself to make it simpler is the number of times that I don’t. It’s like getting on a train that’s hard to get off. Frankly, I don’t want “off” because I enjoy so much of it. I try to experience Christmas like going through a cafeteria line—picking out the things that are most helpful and enjoyable and then moving on.
I heard about a grandmother who asked five-year-old Jennifer if she got everything she wanted for Christmas. “No, ma’am,” she replied, “but that’s okay, it’s not my birthday.” If I keep this truth in perspective, it all comes out okay for me too. You can’t run away from your losses and disappointments, anyway. Hard as I try, I can’t take a vacation and leave my memories at home. It seems to me, however, that the worst “plague” of Christmas is no the so-called Hullabaloo or hype. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that Christmas is a time for families to celebrate being a family, thus strengthening family ties. It is said that most families seem to be dysfunctional to some degree, but it’s sad beyond words when siblings don’t even speak to each other, holding grudges and hard feelings that last several years or more.
I talked with a man recently who said he and his brother haven’t spoken to each other in 15 years. I’ve had funerals where hard feelings were very obvious. I remember one in particular where the children tried to get their share of the estate even before the mother had died. This split the family. Christmas can be a special time when families come together, laughing, sharing, reminiscing, thanking God, enjoying food, and watching LSU football to the (sometimes) bitter end. Is there anything more important?
The problem with divided families is deeper than plain greed, though. It’s an ego thing, where people have to be “right” and the others are wrong. Wars are being fought over this very principle. I know just because you are biologically connected to someone doesn’t mean you have to be close to them. But keeping peace with those who are connected to you is a whole lot better than holding grudges and being unforgiving. It’s also on God’s agenda to listen to those who know how life should be lived, such as Jesus of Nazareth, who promoted “peach on Earth”, among other things.
There’s something else to consider here. A tremendous spiritual even took place; something which disclosed the very nature of God and God’s relation to the universe. Yet, there is very little to show for it on the surface of life. All that people saw was a poor Jewish girl who was unconditionally committed to God’s will through her baby born in raw circumstances. The awesome lesson of this Holy season is the truth of God coming perpetually to God’s people in secret and humble ways. God does not enter with a big fanfare blaring over PA systems. God comes in the quiet moment, in a secret and humble way.
Whether you believe that Jesus was the Messiah or not, no one can deny the timeless and practical truths of His words, such as “forgive 70 times 7,” or “pray for your enemies,” or “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among humans,” and so on. And if you’ve been searching for God without results, stop the search. Cease the struggle. Let God come to you. Let God lift you out of the “doldrums”. This is what Christmas is all about; God coming to us in a significant way. Christmas says: You are not alone in a seemingly unfriendly universe. God sets the agenda, and when people of faith function on that agenda, then it doesn’t matter how much hype and hullabaloo there is.
We are in the cafeteria line right now. What would you like?