I’ll be the first to admit that it IS about the presents. It’s always been like this – getting them, then, making them, and finally being old enough to buy them. The best part of Christmas for me, though, is wrapping them. Everyone in my family seems to carry a particularly pronounced gene for wrapping deficiency, so I usually end up spending the better part of December 23rd stowed away in Mom’s walk-in closet, wrapping and re-wrapping everyone’s gifts. Maybe they just pretend because they know I like to wrap so much, but hey, works for me.

It’s both surprising and encouraging that usually I cannot generate religious feeling on cue. Like, at Christmas time. I think my problem is that I cannot slow down enough to actually recognize what it is we’re celebrating. Incidentally, it seems I’m not the only one with this problem. The whole concept of Advent, I’ve been reminded on several occasions during the last few weeks, is that of waiting, anticipating and longing, all of which require a certain slowing down. How fitting to establish this practice for a people that is always on the run.

Christmas is now right around the corner, and I am still struggling to find those sentiments which are supposed to herald the birth of my Savior. Still, if someone asked me to give an impromptu Christmas Eve message, it would go something like this:

This season is supposed to be a time for family to join together to celebrate the changing of the seasons, and the birth of the Savior. But for many, this is a time of pronounced solitude and despair. Despair because the year is coming to a close but the dreams we set out with have not been realized. Solitude, because so many of us are alone, isolated and unable to find the strength or will to make connections with other equally lonely people. Ours is a nation of white noise and silent despair.

But it doesn’t have to be this way for you. This time.

Why is the birth of a child such a happy time? Because we witness the birth of possibility. And as we long to touch those chubby toes and have those tiny fingers wrap around our thumb, we’re longing to experience freshness and newness in ourselves. Oh, to strip oneself of the haggard layers of disappointments, disenchantments, and loss. To doff the habitual anger, to cast off the self-protective cynicism and sarcasm. To keep the strength but wash off the scars. Is this not our unspoken dream, to be made new?

The birth of Jesus is that dream, realized. Coming into the world as a babe, living as that hope of a complete cleansing, dying to conquer death, Jesus will go on to say, “Behold, I am making all things new”! That includes you. And me. Take this and run with it. Let it fill you to the overflowing. Let the despair go. Just let it go.

This Christmas season my liturgy includes Soren Kierkegaard, so I close with his words, written in his journal in 1848:
“I must never, at any moment, presume to say that there is no way out for God because I cannot see any. For it is despair and presumption to confuse one’s pittance of imagination with the possibility over which God disposes.”

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