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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The spirit of Christmas

The other night while dutifully folding laundry, I was watching a Christmas special. I remember last year, Netflix had a whole bunch of cute Hallmarky kind of movies, and this year I wanted to find one.

I started -- and stopped -- a few different holiday specials. As much as I understand that most of the world doesn't celebrate Christ anymore... I still found the explanations of "Christmas spirit" to be somehow not enough.

Which made me really think about what the Christmas spirit is anyway.

Is it a drive to help others that starts on a Friday in November (and I would argue that it most definitely does not) and ends abruptly on December 26? Is it a time to celebrate family? Is it a time to let each other know how much we love them?

Is it a time to have childlike dreams come true? A time to "celebrate" with every friend and acquaintance? Is it a time of tradition, of making egg nog and sugar cookies? A time to eat delicious food without guilt, and max out our budgets without remorse?

I guess the heart of what I'm searching for is, what is a Christmas without Christ?

Some people may staunchly tell you that you cannot have a meaningful Christmas without Christ. And I would argue that tons of people have a meaningful holiday without God being anywhere near the heart of their celebration.

We all have meaningful days in our lives without including Christ. People around the world will be enjoying deep tradition, new beginnings, first Christmases for babies or couples, thoughtful gifts given and received, a well-deserved break from work, and the joy that can come from being around the people you love.

In short, they will be enjoying the "Christmas spirit" our culture has sold us.

But the joy that comes from those Christmases is all so dependent, isn't it? It depends on being surrounded by all of your loved ones, having hope in your circumstances, feeling healthy and whole, having time to take a break, and being free from the ever-present taint of grief.

Where is the joy of family when when your family is embroiled in a bitter divorce?How do you enjoy unwrapping gifts when the budget is so tight, you couldn't afford to fulfill your own children's wishes? What do you do when you're planning on celebrating new beginnings... But your pregnancy just ended in miscarriage? How do you find joy in delicious food when your body is battling cancer? What if you already feel lonely, or hopeless, poor, sad, angry or hurt?

The traditions and the gifts and the celebrations really aren't enough to satisfy. Not deeply anyway. Not in a way that would cover up all the hurt, disappointments, frustrations, broken relationships and lost dreams that can seem extra hurtful when you surrounded by other people's Christmas spirits. In fact, the Christmas spirit might just make everything hurt MORE.

This year, I am thankful the Christmas spirit is not enough.

I may not be as broken as I have been in years' past. And yet, I find that when I think about all the fun of Christmas -- the presents, the food, the celebrations, the services -- they simply don't add up to a spirit of joy in me.

Our family is embroiled in a painful divorce. I expected to be giving birth in a few weeks, but I am not. I had hoped we would have little miss as ours forever at this point, but we are still waiting. I had hoped to spend time with all my family, dining on our traditional feasts and exchanging gifts with all the kids. But my family is scattered.

The spirit of Christmas is not a balm enough for the hurt I've experienced, the disappointments, the failures.

And I am thankful it is not.

Because that opens my heart to the true Spirit of Christmas. The gift if God's only son. God's heart broke with His gift, so ours no longer had to. The promise of a deeper love, unending and without condition, broke through this desperate world of ours with the shout of angels and a newborn's cry.

His is a gift that can never be destroyed by disease, untimely death, divorce, broken promises, despair, hopelessness or heartache.

His gift is the perfect gift.

Perhaps this just propels the myth that Christ is only for the weak, the broken, the hurting. But maybe it's just that it's when we are weak, when we know the things of this world cannot satisfy, then alone are we most open to the best gift of all.

The gift of Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, I hope you will join me in celebrating the true SPIRIT of Christmas.

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours --

Rachel, Ryan, Maddy and Little Miss

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."
1 Corinthians 1:27

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