Monday, November 28, 2016

The Singular Joy of Christ's Coming

I recently heard someone discussing their upcoming Christmas family gatherings, and they ended their comments by saying, “That’s what it’s all about.”

I stood by and listened quietly.

At that last statement, I just smiled. Because I know that, in truth, that isn’t “what it’s all about.” And I know that that line of thinking is often what prevents us from bearing fruit in the celebration of Christmas, and is what ruins, for many folks, the marking of it.

Because Christmas, as much as we may love and revere family and being with them, is actually not about family.

It’s not about the Hallmark moments sipping liquids in their various forms with siblings, playing board games, petting the pooch while watching White Christmas, shopping craft sales with sisters, zeroing in on the football game with other enthusiasts, or relishing Grandma Ruth’s mint brownies. All great, I totally concur; wonderful if anyone can pull it off. But that’s not “what it’s all about.”

And yet, in spite of oodles upon oodles of books, essays, poems, bumper stickers, Christmas cards and even Linus, in A Charlie Brown Christmas, heralding “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” people continue to put their hope and faith in the traditional family gathering.

I admit I was terrified when I faced my first Christmas without one of my sons. He had signed up for a mission trip to Kenya over the Christmas college break. I had never, as a Christian, experienced a Christmas without a family member. My fear of being without him for the holiday resonated from a presupposed idea that Christmas wouldn’t come—wouldn’t be Christmas—without each and every family member present.

But, just like the Whos of Whoville, who praised the day in spite of, I found myself enjoying, in an entirely new way, that first Christmas without my son. Christmas came because Christ came, and still comes and is come. And maybe by having one of the most important elements of my Christmas removed, I was able to internalize this truth.

That initiation into the “new normal” of Christmas—meaning no two are ever going to be the same again—mercifully freed me from future trepidation about the holiday being “different.” What has taken root is the singular joy of Christ’s coming, and all that that entails for each one of us.

And just as He arrived, simply, in a manger, and extravagantly, amongst a multitude of angels, I, too, can take December 24 and 25 in any form in which they come: quietly and without either of our sons present, or in much merriment and going out and about with both of our sons and their wives in tow. 

The deep joy of Christ is within, regardless.

copyright Barb Harwood

“When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.’” Matthew 13:53-57

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