A blog post by Brigette Weier
At the beginning of December every year, alongside bills, advertisements, endless catalogs, and credit offers, we start to receive Christmas cards from family, friends, and people we can't remember how we know. It's always fun to get anything other than bills, so going to the mailbox takes on the air of a mini retreat in my day. But there is always one piece of mail that comes in the midst of in those cheery -- albeit somewhat self-aggrandizing reminders of how cute your friends kids/dogs/cats are, how happy they are, and how wonderful their work is going -- the annual letter from the cemetery where our son is buried about Christmas wreath placement.
The classic emotional sideswipe from the 100 yard walk to the mailbox. I can go from singing Jingle Bells and feeling connected to all the people who sent me a Christmas letter to feeling heartbroken and alone in the space of a breath. I can be moved from the certainty of the joy of celebrating baby Jesus' birthday (who doesn't love a baby?) to dwelling on about what is missing and most definitely not joyous. It doesn't take much for any of us, I think, to be reminded that the possibility of that perfect Christmas experience is not for us.
Falling Face First into Christmas
It's enough to make you feel caught in the tension of what you think you should feel at Christmas (and sometimes actually do) and what the reality of the season is for many of us. One moment you are reading a Christmas letter about your friend's cats, and the next moment you are debating if you should get the big wreath or the small one for the gravesite. It doesn't take much to have the rug pulled out from underneath us and to fall face first into the reality that jingle bells, jolly old men in red suits, and perfectly wrapped gifts aren't going to change our relationships, heartbreak, worries, and anxieties on the morning of December 26th.
We can quickly and easily be caught in the web of the natural continuum of emotional responses to the cultural expectation of a Martha Stewart decorated home, all of the family gathered and happy, and the perfect gift under the tree. We vacillate somewhere between childlike excitement and soul crushing despair -- sometimes just in one store at the mall.
Christmas Is Not About December 25th
We all want to feel secure, loved, part of a family and community. Our consumer culture lifts up to us one example of what that should be via Hallmark and Macy's; but God offers us a different vision -- a vision that is not perfectly wrapped in red sparkly ribbons. In the midst of political struggle, poverty, and homelessness, God came to be among us. In the midst of family tensions around unplanned pregnancies and teenagers talking to angels, God came to be among us. In the midst of our broken hearts, broken relationships, less than perfect homes, lives, jobs, kids, God comes to be among us.
In the midst of imperfection, God comes to us. God comes to find us, be with us and to draw us to one another for community in our imperfections. God comes to us at the mailbox when we are suddenly reduced to grief. God comes to us in our longing for the perfect Hallmark Christmas and the happy family we may never have. God comes to us to proclaim that there is more than December 25th.
Christmas is not about December 25th but is about God becoming human to be with us in our daily struggles and in the realness -- the ups and the downs -- of our lives. We are not perfect, but it's who we are as people of God and it's all we have to be -- nothing else. God promises to be present on December 26th and beyond, offering us hope, community, and unconditional love regardless of gifts, trees, jobs, kids, and our imperfect selves. God's presence in the spaces between connection and loneliness, excitement and despair, and joy and grief is where hope lives, love lives, and Christ lives.
Brigette Weier lives in Denver, CO, with her family: Mike, her husband of almost 20 years, and their two teenagers, Kayla and Andrew. She serves as associate pastor of youth and household ministry at Lutheran Church of the Master in Lakewood, CO with Rob Moss, senior pastor.