This season, I have been puzzling over what Christmas looks like in the midst of real life. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t rattle off “the true meaning of Christmas”, but that meaning doesn’t clothe the lineaments of our days as I always expect it will. Life is not idyllic. We miss four days of opening the advent calendar and have to do them all at once. My Christmas cards are still not in the mail (by the way, dear, can you pick up stamps on the way home?!). We run out of time for family devotions and have to simply get the cranky children into bed instead of the lovely, peaceful story and prayer I had in mind. We sing Christmas carols together, but the baby squirms and squawks and has to be put down on the floor where she promptly starts to un-decorate the Christmas tree, to the horror and consternation of her brothers– who have now lost all awareness of the song we are singing. Children fuss and writhe and scale the back of the couch and have emotional crises; parents disagree; the bathroom builds up an impressive layer of grime. This is not the family Christmas I envision.
So I have been wrestling with what it really means here, now, in this life–how it is meant to look in a real family where there is anxiety and laughter and sorrow and hope. This Christmas week, I will post some bits of thought and light that I am finding–in this case, I found it while reading on the treadmill this morning, with the television news fluttering in the background.
From one of my favorite authors, Dorothy Sayers, a piece of real Christmas :
“For whatever reason, God chose to make man as he is–limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death–he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not extracted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace, and thought it was worthwhile.”
Tim Keller’s comment on the above:
“The gift of Christmas gives you a resource–a comfort and consolation–for dealing with suffering, because in it we see God’s willingness to enter this world of suffering to suffer with us and for us.”
I was singing carols to my children, surrounded by the clutter of the lunch table and a swath of crumbs across the floor, when these lines brought me to a halt:
He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable, and His cradle was a stall.
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.
Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high…
(“Once in Royal David’s City”, lyrics by Cecil Frances Alexander)
Merry Real Christmas!