Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When Christmas Stinks

This is an old blog post I blew the dust off, to share again today. 

You can feel it in the air. Everyone’s talking about baking, Christmas parties, good foods, beloved traditions, gifts they’ve tucked away,and leaving town to see friends and family. The feeling can be almost contagious.
Most of us have endured Christmases we’d rather forget. Because troubles don’t keep Christmas from coming. It comes anyway, and if we look at the sparkling joy around us and don’t feel it, we feel like downers who might ruin the most perfect Christmas party.
The new town we’ve just moved to doesn’t have those special memories and people we love. When we’re unemployed, the bare space under the Christmas tree taunts us. After a divorce or breakup, the Christmas parties and gatherings are filled with people who still have their “someone.” No amount of gifts can fill the gap at the dinner table after the death of a loved one, nor the empty space next to us in the bed after losing a spouse. When our hours are filled, not with fun at the mall and baking, but sitting beside a hospital bed, Christmas can seem a million miles away. Painful changes come our way, and sometimes it’s reflected in Christmas.
Isn’t that a sometimes a good thing, though? Because the first Christmas was steeped in trouble, its preceding months filled with scandal and rumor. I often wonder if Mary liked to have things just so, or if she was a go-with-the-flow kind of girl. 
“Sure, I’ll give birth in a cave. Without my mom nearby, in a strange town, without any of my family here. And my ‘midwife’ is my husband, and the baby’s not his.” Talk about a reality show!
When she and Joseph were engaged, they probably had plenty of plans. Don’t we all? 
But we never plan for sickness, separation, bereavement, economic hardship. We don’t plan for the bottom to drop out of our worlds, especially at Christmas time.
What can we do, then, to find something to celebrate? In the hard times, peeling away the wrapping paper and gifts, the parties that come and go, the songs that fade, we get to the heart of the celebration: hope.
The world can be a dark place, and without the hope of Christmas, we don’t have the comfort of knowing we’re not alone. We don’t have the assurance of God’s provision for our needs. But our hope came wrapped in swaddling clothes and tucked in a manger. That is a reason to celebrate, and get to know Jesus, the child who grew up to reunite us with God, the source of all peace. Without Him, all the celebrations are never enough. With Him, we can always find something to celebrate.
We can put our troubles aside, for a moment, and reach out to someone else. Find one new thing, something meaningful, to celebrate at Christmas. This season will pass and Christmas will change for us from now on. But it’s going to be okay. We have a promise. Hold onto hope! Fear not!
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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