Does Christmas sometimes feel broken and tangled? Do you find yourself sweeping up glass ornaments that hit the ground or untangling long strings of lights only to find one section isn’t lit?
Yet this holiday was meant to be a gift given to us. A celebration of heaven and nature. Hope in the darkest days. And that is precisely why all our baubles and foibles don’t add up to what we are missing; love.
I remember one afternoon long ago, my little ten-year-old self was feeling forlorn. I’m a middle child and sometimes we just get overlooked. I was standing at the end of our driveway looking down the sidewalk of the rather steep street we lived on (made for good sledding steep). I thought in my mind that if I could just start running down the hill and make myself fall then I could scrape my knees and my mom would have to pay a lot of attention to me. I imagined myself getting the royal treatment. The problem was, I couldn’t fall on my knees. I kinda, sorta remember trying, but I wasn’t able to plunge to my demise.
What does this have to do with Christmas? We can’t bring ourselves to realize our need; love. We know intrinsically that we have this need and we’ve experienced this emotion on this holiday, so we draw this picture in our head of how to get there, but we can’t fall on our knees. It might hurt.
This is true individually and it’s true of mankind – we’d rather focus on the shiny object then what’s at the heart of the matter. How brilliantly the French poet put in when he wrote the words to O Holy Night in 1847:
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
I think most of us would rather kneel down gently then fall on our knees. But herein lies the conundrum – we can’t experience this glorious, redeeming love without the pain that Christmas represents. For at the heart of Christmas is the story of a father willing to suffer the pain of losing his child. God knew the price of this gift. Jesus is called his one and only son. He parted with what was best for him, to give us what was best for us. He demonstrated divine giving – divine love.
So as we deck the halls of our homes and stand in line to buy presents; as we bake cookies and sign Christmas cards; let us remember that “love” is what we are giving – not merely beautifully decorated houses and perfectly wrapped gifts, but the time and the care and sometimes the sacrifice to give them.
It would be a shame to put up all those decorations, just to find there’s no room at the Inn.