Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Rockwell or Griswolds?"

What is Christmas like at your house? It is the Norman Rockwell version or is your family Christmas more like Griswold’s? Mine is somewhere closer to the latter. Many of us spend much money, time, and energy into chasing this unattainable ideal set for us by Norman Rockwell. Many of us are just trying the best we can to survive all the Christmas activities. All of us want the Norman Rockwell version but in reality we are closer to the Griswold’s. The first Christmas was pretty messy and life today is pretty messy but God shows up in the middle of the mess to bring us a message of hope. Mary was a teenager, unmarried, and pregnant. She was engaged to a man but the child was not his. Messy! She faced the shame and public humiliation and could have been put to death according to her customs. Messy! While she was in her last trimester, she was forced by the government to travel a rough road to be counted for the census so tehy could be taxed accordingly. Messy! While she traveled with Joseph’s family, she could still hear the whispers, see the stares, and feel the uneasiness her presences brought to the other women. Messy! When the contractions started, Mary had to give birth in a barn among the animals. Messy! Jesus was born into the most chaotic, unsterile, or unplanned time imaginable. In reality the first Christmas is more like the Griswold’s than Norman Rockwell. It was far from “perfect”.

What are our own unrealistic expectations for the “perfect” Christmas? Do you strive to cook, clean, buy, prepare, plan, invite, and attended events on your way to the perfect Christmas? If we are in search of the perfect Christmas we are simply delusional because the perfect Christmas does not exist. There will always be unmet expectations, people will let us down, either intentionally or unintentionally. There will always be the pain of the void left from our loved one who has died and cannot be with us. There will always be a dish that no matter how close we followed the recipe, we left something out and it taste horrible. There will always be a child, cat or dog that knocks over the Christmas tree that we spent three days decorating. Then there is the relative that shows up that we didn’t invite, you know the one that always starts a family feud. Christmas will and often can be a mess.

Even in the midst of the unexpected, the messy, and the devastating, you can still fully expect God to show up. This is truly what Christmas is about. When we begin to shift our focus just a bit we will realize that Christmas is not our birthday but Christ’s. Christ was born into a mess, Christ is presence in the middle of our mess, and He loves us despite of our mess. When we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God with us, we acknowledge and celebrate that in our mess, God is with us. In our pain, God is with us. In our struggles, God is with us. In our chaos of broken relationships, God is with us. We celebrate that undeniable fact that Jesus stepped down from His kingdom into the mess of our lives and into our lives with all our imperfections. That is something to celebrate.
Peace, Love, Hope, and Joy!

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