Saturday, December 30, 2006

Challenges of Christmas

Christmas ~ the most wonderful time of the year? Certainly, in some ways, that statement is absolutely true. The celebration of God in flesh ~ come to live among us. No matter that Christ was probably born in June rather than December ~ no matter that the commercialism of our culture has all but blotted out the real meaning of Christmas ~ as Christians we celebrate a God who would take on our form in order to show us the way of justice, peace and love.

Christmas is also a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends. Christmas cards and phone calls and visits from those who live far away remind us of what is truly important in life. Gary and I are certainly lucky to spend Christmas with Ben each year. Since we don’t have the chance to see him on a daily basis, we treasure the chance to share this time of year with him. Seeing our parents and visiting with family is a great part of the season.

But there is also a lot of pressure associated with Christmas. The pressure to create the perfect Christmas experience. The pressure to buy the perfect Christmas presents. And, as a pastor, the pressure to write the perfect Christmas sermon! Admittedly the pressure comes mostly from within. If I were honest, I would admit that most people aren’t even listening to the sermon on Christmas Eve. They are thinking about their Christmas plans and presents and meals! But there is the hope that maybe just one person will be touched by the true magic of Christmas…. will experience the mystery of God come into the world.

As a pastor, I struggle with the holidays. I want a wonderful Christmas for my family while serving my church faithfully, and I find there isn’t enough of me to go around. One way I deal with this is by shopping and decorating and doing my Christmas cards early. I plan meals ahead and make out shopping lists so everything will go as smoothly as possible. I bake mini-breads and put them in the freezer. But still, my attention is divided…. at least until the last person is greeted at the end of the Candlelight Christmas Eve service. While decorating Christmas cookies, I am thinking about a certain transition in my sermon that is not going smoothly. While shopping for that last minute necessity, I am thinking about the woman who is spending Christmas in the hospital. I suppose this is a tension I need to accept, to live within, since I imagine I will have the same basic holiday schedule for the next 30 years!

Yet, as one pastor has said, “In this midst of our mess, Christ comes.” In the midst of our stress and tension and feelings of inadequacy, Christ comes. I imagine that this truth is the best news of the season. Is Christmas the most wonderful time of the year? Probably not for the reasons we usually think, but I would say yes… it is.

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