Saturday, December 12, 2009

Melancholy Christmas

I find Christmas to be a difficult season. It has to do with ‘expectations’ that I’m certain are wrapped in unpleasant memories. It’s this sense that no matter what I do, no matter how jolly I try to be, no matter what kind of gift that I buy …well, it all falls short, at least according to my internal expectation meter and I sense that I’m disappointing someone.

And so, I go into a bit of a holiday funk. It’s difficult to get into the season and I’m happy when it ends. That probably makes me a ‘scrooge’ of some sort. Just being honest.

And so I struggle a bit in this holiday season, wondering if I’m up to the task of the celebration of the season. I confess that I feel a little off, maybe even a tad bit fearful and apprehensive, and unsure of myself .

I know there are others who are approach Christmas with a bit of fear, melancholy and trepidation. Maybe you're one of them. Especially this year with the economic slowdown, if you're at all human, in your private moments, you grapple with the uncertainty that fear brings. For some that fear and uncertainty is caused by an imminent job change, others might be asking God about their singleness or a fragile marriage, some are ill and more than a few are facing financial struggles.

Whatever it is I believe that the hope that Christmas brings is supposed to win out over the fear of circumstance. The angel in the field was very clear "Don't be afraid …. I bring you good news of great joy." Author Kathleen Norris tells us that the “Incarnation is where hope contends with fear.”

And in that hope is a great comfort. God is here. He's bigger than anything or anyone I face. I'm not alone. God's come. I can bring any stuff I'm dealing with to Jesus, God who is with us, in prayer. He's promised to listen, to care, to respond. He's faithful. He loves us. He speaks to our fear and He can speak to the ‘holiday funk’. And in that response we can find that peace that is far beyond human understanding.

I love this little story because it reminds us of the joy of childhood and helps us to see the beauty of the Incarnation through the eyes of a child. It’s written by John Shea and it’s called Sharon’s Christmas Prayer.

She was five, sure of the facts, and recited them with slow solemnity convinced every word was revelation .

She said: They were so poor they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat. And they went a long way from home without getting lost. The lady rode a donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady. They had to stay in a stable with an ox and an ass (hee hee) but The Three Rich Men found them because a star lited the roof. Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them. Then the baby was borned. And do you know who He was? Her quarter eyes inflated to silver dollars. The baby was God.

And she jumped in the air whirled around, dove into the sofa and buried her head under the cushion which is the only proper response to the Good News of the Incarnation.

I don't know if you'll jump into the air and dive into a sofa but my prayer is that this Christmas you'll respond to God who came in the flesh. He stands before you always saying "I love you very much. Will you give me your life?" My prayer is that you'll say yes. And in that 'yes' you will understand the meaning of Christmas … and you will be filled with joy. That goes for me too. In the midst of the hoopla that exhausts me I look for the ‘Christ’ who will refresh my soul.

Somehow, Christmas brings together the best and the worst of our lives and begs the question – which will you serve? Will you allow hope to transcend your holiday funk? Will you allow Jesus to be Lord of you merriment? Will you allow Jesus to transcend the appeal of consumerism? Good questions all.


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