"Messy Christmas" - R. Rossmo Dec 18, 2011.
Are you a Christmas scrooge or a Christmas fanatic? You know the ones. The Christmas fanatic pulls out the tree on November 1st, revel in ugly sweaters, shop till they drop, egg nog lattes, they still believe in Santa Claus, cover their house in yule tide trinkets, put Rudolph noses on their cars, and can’t sleep a wink on Christmas eve in fear they’ll miss opening presents at 7AM Christmas morn. Did I mention the Christmas fiend is 36 years old?
Conversely, the Christmas scrooge looks down upon the fiend. Anything ‘Christmas’ prior to Dec 24th is too early, they prefer to eat Chinese food than ham and turkey, find it a personal slight they have to venture into overcrowded malls to buy a reciprocal gift so they can fit in. Christmas scrooges lament on how everyone is living beyond their means, notes how our consumer senses are appealed and appeased by the endless bombardment to ‘buy’ and ‘give’, can’t wrap gifts so uses newspapers or leftover birthday bags, and probably can chalk up their annual demeanour to some really poor experience from years past.
Not only are these extremes but I’ve noticed we can’t really sit in the middle of this road, we tend to lean to one side (fanatic) or the other (scrooge). Which side do you picture yourself on?
There’s something about the Christmas season that seems to bring out the best and worse in all of us. Think back to Christmas’ past, isn’t it true that this particular season, more than others, pushes us to the fringes?
Christmas sends us to the edges–to both ditches–no balancing middle ground….
We accumulate expectations and hopes that this season will be great (or maybe you’re a glass half empty person and you strive for ‘less failure’ than year’s past). We’re etched to pursue a euphoric and perfect Christmas yet in reality this pursuit encounters mounting frustrations and disappointment because we can’t meet expectations.
This time of year more than any other has the capability to illicit evocative memories from Christmas past, be it good or really bad, while simultaneously amplifying that are actions this year will have implications for future holiday memories.
Pressure is on to play nice rather than naughty and makes this Christmas a ‘magical’ one.
But does all the hubbub sound like a healthy annual exercise? Does this pursuit even remotely reflect the “reason for the season“? (After all, isn’t that why many of us do what we do?)
The picturesque postcard of the manger scene with three wisemen, donkeys braying, sheep and shepherds, and bright shining star is a crowd favorite. But how accurate is it? The answer is not very. Here’s my take on how the first ‘Christmas’ actually went down.
It wasn’t Christmas at all, rather in all likelihood a balmy April Spring evening. The whole notion of ‘no room at the inn’ is a myth. Joseph and teenage (very pregnant) Mary head off from Nazareth to Bethlehem for a census. That’s two days via donkey (not comfortable). They arrive at Joseph’s family’s place well in advance of the birth.
Here’s where things actually get interesting. In the weeks and days leading up to the the birth of Jesus the chaos in the household must have been reminiscent of a Greek wedding. It was so busy and loud that the only place Mary could find refuge to deliver was in the storeroom, likely the ‘basement’ hewn into a rock face. It’s true, animals complete with hay and feed troughs would hang out in the basement.
It’s here, in the midst of the simplicity (some would say even the poverty), the loud family chaos upstairs, the labour, Jesus crashes into the history of humanity with a cry.
This Christmas story is not only more accurate but I prefer it because it sounds a lot more like the Christmas’ I know. Who’s family gatherings aren’t crazy? Everyone has an extended aunt they can’t wait [sarcasm] to see.
The first Christmas and all to follow do not echo any semblance to something picturesque so maybe striving for the perfect Christmas has no bearing on a good Christmas at all? Maybe Christmas IS in fact found in the MESS. After all, that’s where the world discovers the Christmas babe.
It is in Christ that we derive hope. Not only hope for a good Christmas, but a hope that extends ‘good tidings to all’. The hope begun in manger transforms into the hope of all creation; Jesus is the final and continuous answer to God’s ultimate dream of putting the world to rights.
It is Christ–God incarnate–who ventures below perfection to meet us in our ordinary and regular mess to glimpse for us unfettered love and joy.
This Christmas be blessed within the tension by a God who brings joy in the ordinary even if you feel as if it should not be so.