Can you feel it? The gnawing, nagging sense that you’re just not feeling Christmas? That maybe if you listened to a few more carols, watched another Christmas movie or finished wrapping presents, you could work up Christmas cheer?
If I’m honest, it’s not about the Christmas cards I neglected to create, nor the decorating I never completed. It’s that life is still hurtling forward. It’s that every day of Advent I have heard news of brokenness: a home destroyed by wildfire, a stillborn baby, cancer stealing a young mother, depression’s icy grip tightening, marriage tensions escalating. Despite the crisply wrapped packages and the crescendos of happiness in Christmas movies, December threatens to be like every other month: except more.
Do you feel the ache?
Other years, I’ve covered my ears and ran into the melee, hoping that the more Christmas Bucket List items I can check off, the more I will feel Christmas.
Not this year.
This year, I’m leaning into the ache. There’s late night texts with a hurting friend. Visiting a neighbour who is grieving her mom’s death. Sitting with my agitated child and struggling to show grace as bedtime turns into bed-hours. Weeping over missed opportunities and misspoken words. Admitting we are limited and living at the very edge of our limits.
I’m calling it: I can’t make Christmas magical enough to cover real life.
And here’s the best part: that is Christmas.
Christmas is not about seasonal mantlepieces, fancy parties, delicious meals nor cozy moments. (Although I am very much for these things)
Christmas is about Love entering the mess. Jesus was conceived by an unsuspecting, un-fancy virgin. He was born in a backwater town, in a feeding box for donkeys and cows. His birth was announced to the un-famous and un-showered in the middle of a field.
(Can you imagine what the nativity smelled like?)
It was not a beautifully curated scene. And yet it was.
If you are feeling tired or grumpy or lonely or like you’re faking it, come to the stable. The baby lying in the manger has come to the mess of our lives. He spent his adult life hanging out with outcasts and scammers, the sick and the unnoticeable. That baby grew up to take on the ache and the cost and horror of our brokenness by his death on the cross. And He offers us forgiveness, belonging and love. He trades our ashes for beauty, our grief for joy, and our despair for praise (Isaiah 61:3).
This, is what it means to feel Christmas-y. To bring the shards of your life to the King of Love. To recognize that there is no feeling you can conjure up that is comparable to the love He offers.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son
into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9
*The first and third photos in the post were taken by me at New City Church. Many thanks to the talented friends there who decorate beautifully.