Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm not blue ... and it's Christmas

Today my responsibility at the seminary was to speak at our Blue Christmas service. The service is designed for people who are finding Christmas a hard thing to face ... like Megan whose little sister died suddenly three weeks ago, and Phil whose son is a marine, just deployed to Iraq.

As I was thinking of what to say I thought that there are really two Christmases that run on top of each other throughout December. They are so closely meshed they seem to be one, but are complete opposites really.

The first is the magic Christmas, land of jolly old St. Nicholas, mommy kissing Santa Claus, bells of St. Ives and Perry Como and too much figgy pudding. It is this first Christmas celebration that makes people feel desolate. Ironically.

The second Christmas is mystery, not magic, an ancient celebration of the Christ mass - the story that God came down precisely because this is a wounding world, and He has chosen to enter my own personal drama, and yours, to (and I use scriptural allusions here) unlock personal prison doors, make rough pathways smooth, bring to nothing daunting obstacles, support the smallest of dreams and hopes, etc.

In this way of thinking the opposite of Christmas as most of us celebrate it is not the Grinch, or Scrooge. The Grinch and Scrooge are part of Christmas common, a necessary foil. The true opposite of Christmas common is the Christmas celebration sacred.

Think of it like this: there is no human on earth who does not have seasons of sorrow, grief or fear. When those seasons perchance collide with the Christmas season common, sadness and loneliness intensify. What masquarades as the joyful season is really quite hollow when the mandatory pieces (read: tree, loved ones, chestnuts roasting on the open fire, etc) are not available.

But the mystery of Christmas sacred is that it is a space in time where sorrow is lifted, lonely drudgery becomes dance and doors are thrown open for trapped lives. Christmas in this sense should be the place we want to be when our life is heavy and our emotions are ruined. It may look duller on the outside, but it is solid through and through.

I lost heart for Christmas common a long time ago. Maybe I am the Grinch my kids and staff say I am - I can live with that. But there is a celebration I am a part of. It is why I still make cookies iced in red and green, and stuff stockings for The Girls. It looks like Christmas common. But don't be fooled.


Sarah said...

This is beautiful. And true. What a blessing for these people to have the opportunity to hear such a message of hope.

rachel said...

...and what a relief not to have to summon the energy to be falsely cheerful... but rather to sit in the dark beside the manger, quiet and still with Jesus.

Marilyn said...

You know - it was a deep thought for me that the way we have come to practice Christmas has been effective in ruining what it is meant to be. That people are HURT by the Christmas season must be a cosmic offence.

Mrs Moose said...

You rock, amma. Love this. Damn good message...

Karen Vine said...

After spending a few Christmas seasons feeling desolate and unloved because my life doesn't look like a commercial - beautiful people in a beautiful environment opening extravagant gifts before they head off to yet another beautiful party - I realized I had to decide that Christmas for me would not be about culture but about truth. My joy in Christmas comes from the truth of Jesus and it starts with gratitude. I am first of all grateful for a God who loves me enough to send Jesus. I am grateful for such common things as the money to buy turkey and a home to prepare it in. I am filled with joy at the ability to share life with a wonderful husband and four great kids. I could go on at length. I have learned that if I take my eyes off Jesus and look at what the world says my life should be, I sink. For me to celebrate with joy, I must keep my eyes and heart focused on the baby in the manger.