Christmas break has begun. We have already decorated gingerbread men which means that we have dumped large amounts of sprinkles onto gobs of sticky icing. While I enjoy all the festivities alongside our boys, I also wrestle deeply with feeling like the Christmas season can feel contrived.
In the midst of the bright lights and with beautiful, photoshopped Christmas cards in hand, sometimes I feel like Christmas mocks me by showing me just how dim and dingy my own heart and life can feel.
I had to giggle when I jogged by an elaborately-decorated home with a family of inflatables the other day. Being as it was day time, the airless piles of deflated decor more closely approximated how many of us feel sometimes during the Christmas season, if we would allow ourselves to be honest.
I want my boys to have happy memories in matching pajamas and that makes me feel even more parenting pressure during the holidays. As the pressure of a contrived Christmas builds within my soul, I miss the astounding and authentic beauty of reality.
Far more than a contrived Christmas full of commercial joys and trinkets, I long that my boys would grow an authentic awe of the Christ for whom Christmas began to be celebrated. In order for them to experience that awe, I have to lead my own heart away from contrived Christmas and towards the authentic Christ.
Christ’s love was anything but contrived. He did not put on a nice plaid sweater and bring meatballs cooked in an Instant Pot to a party. In authentic love, He put on skin to come suffer and struggle in our messiness.
His birth was neither neat nor contrived. He was born during a census, which is basically like a week of waiting at the DMV with all of huddled humanity waiting in lines. I hope its not sacrilege to say so, but I imagine Joseph and Mary got into a few arguments in the days leading up to His birth. Traveling with a very pregnant woman is not fun even in the world of modern conveniences, thus one can imagine the stress of traveling in the ancient world affected them both. Mary screamed real screams while delivering Jesus, and Joseph probably anxiously paced all around the cave crowded with animals while his young wife labored.
Jesus lived with real parents in a real home with real needs and real siblings. He worked in the family business with real customers and real deadlines. When He began His public ministry, He spent the majority of his time with all-too-real fishermen, tax collectors and the like. He belly-laughed with his friends and wept when they hurt.
The crowning achievement of his life was wearing a crown of thorns after being publicly and unjustly mocked. His was no shiny life or death. Yet, He freely chose this life and death out of an eternally deep love for us and out of an adoring obedience to the will of His Father who would bring more sons to His authentic love.
It does my heart well to remember that at the heart of Christmas is the Incarnation of Christ which was far from contrived, neat and pretty.
Christ’s Incarnation speaks eternal meaning into our mundane and messy lives. Christ’s Incarnation says that our daily lives mattered enough to God that He would send His Son into the creation He spoke forth. His authentic, costly love of real humans is far more stunning than beautiful light displays or picture-perfect parties.
May the authentic, life-transforming life, death and resurrection of Christ inform your next week. And Merry Uncontrived Christmas to you and yours.