Well, friend you’re in good company.
I’m not sure Jesus is in the Christmas spirit this year either.
Has He ever been? It couldn’t have been a jolly good time for Him, leaving all of heaven for a scratchy-hay manger bed, a new young mom who needed her mom, and a “room” full of animals that smelled and sounded like...animals. And just when everyone was getting settled in, a motley band of shepherds arrived with smells and a racket of their own.
No mention of bells
or Christmas trees
or gifts (not until later when the wise men arrived, and who wants myrrh anyway?)
or elves on shelves...No loss there, but I digress. Possibly.
No matter how closely I peer at the nativity scenes, I can’t find much Christmas spirit lingering between the lines in Luke 2. True, that homeless woman's boy-child was the Son of God, and the angels announced it spectacularly...but they weren’t singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year...”
she’s figuring out what Christmas will look like since he left so abruptly, with hardly a warning.
they wish their daughter could find a way to spend some time with them this month, but hope is fading.
another family is walking through difficult decisions, and waiting is the only thing they can do, and it’s not enough.
that friend is facing a menacing diagnosis and has never felt more alone.
she’s watching her dad slip away and he knows he’s going, and he’s mad about it.
We’re not really in the Christmas spirit, say the single moms, broke and broken, struggling with mental health issues, unpaid bills, and worn out vehicles.
What’s the Christmas spirit mean for kids with Dad-holes in their hearts so big, they’ve fallen through them, and no one is sure we can pull them out, pull them through?
Christmas spirit? We’ll pass this year, say families separated by long miles and silences, or living in proximity with mile high walls between their hearts. And everyone knows “they” started this building project and no one has the courage to take off one stone unless it’s to throw it at the other.
My friends are up to their tear ducts in grief, one trying to capture the Christmas spirit when both of her parents will be missing from the table, another family whose son is gone and won’t be back. Ever. And this one's in jail, and that one's pushing everyone away...
I haven’t even mentioned the darkness in the broader world –
refugee crises of epidemic proportions and compassion dwindling worldwide, drained by suspicion and closemindedness and “me-first” perspectives –
and natural disasters
and long-hidden abuse being uncovered
Everywhere I look - immeasurable hardship and deep pain.
This isn’t the Christmas spirit I was looking for, but it’s what I’ve found – all this longing and loss and terrible need.
And when I look closely at the Story, I realize God has seen it too.
He saw the long lines, the longing hearts, waiting for something, for Someone, for a Savior...
To the dark side, to the pain place, to our place.
"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
A Savior has been born for you today in David's town."
God with us,
and oh God, sweet Jesus, hovering Spirit,
we have never needed You more than we do now...
(although, looking back across the centuries - millennia even – we’ve always needed You.)
This world is a dark and broken place, and we’re broken too, and in deep need of..."Emmanuel which means God with us." (Matthew 1:23)
Maybe this is, after all, the true Christmas spirit, this ache of longing and yearning in each waiting heart.