Sunday, December 22, 2013

What is Christmas without Christ?

Nice but not enough...

I have always loved Christmas.  What's not to love?  Twinkling lights, shiny presents, friends and family, music--an ADHD extravaganza!  (Squirrel!)

The catch is that crisis happens any time of the year.  Our family is not immune.  In fact, we find life-altering crisis so frequently, we have come to think we eat it for breakfast--and it tastes like Wheaties most of  the time.  But when CRISIS comes in the middle of this joyous season, the music begins to sound tinny and irritating, the greetings become annoying, and family gatherings can become just another place to wish for "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men." 

At that point, what you believe about the season begins to really matter. 

If Christmas is just a secular holiday, then it becomes an inescapable reminder of pain and pathos. It feels macabre, like a song out of tune or a waking nightmare--Halloween held over.  It's easy to feel like you have to put on a happy face when all you want to do is scream for it to stop.  Anguished bitterness has a catch-phrase:  "Bah Humbug." 

But there's another way.  At the core of a Christ-filled Christmas is a captivating word: 


God with us.

Somehow that simple thought wraps the pain in a blanket of peace like new-fallen snow.  The ground may be just as hard and unyielding, but everything is clean and beautiful again because we are not alone, or at least we don't have to be alone.   

Yet, at the end of that nightmare came a miracle:  God came to live with us.  God came to walk in our shoes by our side.  He didn't take the crisis away.  It was still a smelly stable.  They were still a long way from home and family--and it was going to get a lot worse before it got better.  Yet His presence was enough to make it all very different.  And just in case they had forgotten the enormity of what just happened, Joseph and Mary get a night-time wakeup call from an awe-struck crowd of shepherds that told of angel anthems and all of Heaven rejoicing.  Jesus told us:

"10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

The next time the enemy of your souls comes to steal your joy, kill your hope and destroy your holiday, remember again that you have a choice:  your pain can be faced alone or with the greatest gift ever given:  Immanuel.