Every year, I look forward to the next week of the year with dread. There, I’ve said it: that is your cue to gasp in shocked horror that I would say such a thing. After all, as a believer this is supposed to be one of the twin apexes of the Christian narrative. So, why the dread?
Well first and most selfishly, it is an be absolute insanity at my day job. Ensuring that we remain an integral element of the supply chain means lots of off hours and behind the scenes efforts for the good people who ensure that there are sugarplums available so that little Johnny can go to sleep with “visions of sugar plums dancing in his head.”. By the time the single off day arrives.. Well, it seems nearly anticlimactic. By the day after, the bell is tolling again, it’s rope pulled by those people who neglected things in their own particular feverish version of the Christmas rush. Most times, it seems like the agony of getting there just isn’t worth the momentary relief at the plateau.
More tellingly though, is the fact that for the most part, Christmas bores me with its emphasis on the banal. I end up in this quixotic state where I anticipate holiday perfection(spell checker suggested perdition there, perhaps more apropos), only to have this imagined Nirvana interrupted by the cold hard hand of reality. We gather as families, and feast, while exchanging things we don’t need for items we don’t want. Then we go back to the grind of our existence after the festivities are over, and don’t get emotional until the credit card statement comes.
My final Christmas irritation is this trait that Christians have about lamenting that ” we’ve lost the meaning of Christmas.”. To which, in my more grinch-ish moments, I have been known to retort with a demand for an explanation. At which point, I am usually met with a lot of stuttering and stammering and eventually in a strangled voice I hear something like: it’s about Jesus and and and stuff”. As my 8 year old would say, “epic fail.”
If the reality of the incarnation, God becoming flesh, leaving the throne room of heaven to be born as a baby in a barn in the backside of Judea doesn’t rock your world, nothing else will. If you see a baby in a manger as the epitome of Christmas harmony instead of the blow in the bloody cosmic battle that His birth signified, you’ve missed the point. If you don’t see the God of light (1 John1:5), preparing for the final defeat of darkness and death in that rundown stable, then the trees have obscured the forest. The story of Christmas is not the Christmas story, because the Christmas story does not exist alone. The incarnation is part of the larger story, this grand and glorious plan of redemption for a people who could not and cannot ever measure up to the standard of a holy God on their own. The manger is not the story of a baby and that little drummer boy who played a great drum solo, rather it is the story of grace personified, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, just so He could die for us.
So, this Christmas season, will you join this grinch in his “meh” approach to the coming festivities? Let’s place the priority where it belongs: a right and proper reaction to the good news of his birth, and the better news of His death in our place. At the end of the day, the good news of Christmas that gets this grinch excited is not “away in a manager”, rather it is the fact that ” He comes to make his blessings known, far as the curse is found.”. That gift won’t fit under a tree, and best of all, it makes us free. Free from expectations, from unfulfilled hopes, from disappointment and regret. Then and only then, will we see why the ultimate Christmas song is “How Deep the Father’s Love for us”.