Monday, December 17, 2012

Celebrating Christmas in a Broken World

The Lord and I have been wrestling a bit lately.

And by a "bit" I mean "a fair amount" and by "wrestling" I mean "giving the Lord opportunity to break out some of his divine patience." "Lately" could also refer to "a while."

I know that's vague, but it's a deeply personal sort of wrestling. the kind that involves patience and grief and sorrow. The last several months have taken a toll, and Christmas looming made it a little trickier.

Because there's nothing like holidays to remind you of the cracks, the uneven spaces in your life you wish weren't there but have no control over. We are reminded to aspire to "Merry and Bright," when sometimes "Stable and Content" is not an easy achievement.

That's where my head-space was before the Newton, Connecticut tragedy.

Gosh, it breaks my heart. And it makes me angry. I'm really good at putting a positive spin on things (call it a defense mechanism), but there was nothing to make the event anything other than completely, utterly, devastatingly heartbreaking.

Here is the truth as I know it - we live in a broken world. A deeply broken world. God sent his Son because of its brokenness.

Sometimes Christmas is portrayed as the easy holiday - it's babies, bright stars, and barn animals. Easter's the tough one, because you can drape a cross in lilies all you want, but there's still torture and death before the resurrection.

A closer reading, though, reveals that the birth of Christ did not just involve inns and sheep. There was Herod, and the death of innocent babies, and a flight to Egypt.

Jesus didn't come to make the world un-broken, that wasn't the point. The Jewish zealots really hoped he would overthrow the Roman regime, but that wasn't the point either.

He came so we could find spiritual unity with God, a unity that would manifest itself in a future, perfect world. He came to help us carry the load until then, to grieve with us, intercede in prayer, to give us a perfect model of holiness to aspire to.

Christ's arrival, death, and resurrection didn't negate our free will, but it did give us the tools to use it responsibly.

I really love Audrey Assad's "Winter Snow," because it reminds me of how Christ could have come but didn't, and how his arrival in a shabby stable was part of a larger narrative.

I also recommend this NYT column by Ross Douthat, especially when he talks about the narrative of the New Testament.

As far as Christmas? Myself, I have to cling to the hope of an infant Christ. Also, I mod-podge paper maché reindeer, cut paper snowflakes, play Christmas music, and find joy in small, silly things.

This year will not likely go down in history as my Best Christmas Ever, but it's still part of the narrative. The best part? I know how it ends. And as much as the Lord and I wrestle, and I am thankful that he is the original author of happy endings.

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