Tuesday, December 24, 2019

What Matters About Christmas

As evening gathers over gloomy Pacific Northwest skies, I sit on my front porch and marvel at the way a few feeble strings of Christmas lights chase away the darkness and bring joy into my heart. 

Merry Christmas Eve

If you are anything like me, this day is a welcome to relief to at least a solid month of

overflowing to-do lists,
a tangle of online orders, deliveries, and returns,
heaping piles of secret boxes and bags in the back of the closet,
a near endless stream of trips to the grocery store,

and most of all,

an insistent voice in the back of my head that insists I'm forgetting something important.

This hectic, frantic busy-ness, we all know, is not what Christmas is supposed to be.

And yet it often is.

* * * * *

Tonight, this night, the night before the night before Christmas, is when I try to take a deep breath, slow myself down.

I remind myself that no matter how hard I try, no matter what happens, the Christmas celebration that is about to unfold will not be perfect.

I'm not a perfect person.
My family is not a perfect family.

And with any festival day that is built up as Christmas is built up to be, there will always be

failed expectations
and a general sense that things just did not turn out as I wanted them to turn out

If you are anything like me, Christmas often comes with despair and pain and regret.

* * * * *

But before I sink into this darkness, I remind myself  that all of this imperfection is okay.

What matters about Christmas is not what we do. It's about what God has already done,

He came to us as a child
He brought light and love to the whole world.
He had a special heart for the outcasts, the outlaws, the outsiders
He forgave us for our endless imperfections.
He taught us how to love him
He showed us how to love each other.

That's what matters about Christmas.

And it helps me to remember that

before the star burned bright in the skies over Bethlehem,
before the choir of luminous angels sang from the heavens,
before a bunch of grubby shepherds showed up at the barn with their lanterns aglow,

the story began with a baby born in the darkness of a barn at night.

Light drives out darkness.

And that's what matters about Christmas.

* * * * *

I know there are people in this world who push back from that kind of talk.

People who have had religion shoved down their throats.
People who have lived among hypocrites who do not practice what they preach.
People who have experienced ugly things in life, and wonder why God has left them to suffer.
People who have anger and pain and hopelessness that won't go away.
People who have come to believe that the story of God's love for his people is just foolishness.

I think that's okay.

I don't judge anyone for that, nor would I try to talk them out of feeling how they do.

But if you are one of those people, I only hope that you will pause to consider the sweet mystery of light and darkness.

And whatever brings you light, I hope there will always be enough of it in your heart to drive out the world's darkness.

Because that, too, is what matters about Christmas.

 * * * * *

Our 2019 Christmas adventures:

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