I have to admit right now that Christmas is my least favorite time of the year. I’m a bit of a Grinch, not wanting to steal Christmas, but rather bypassing it altogether if it’s all the same to you. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the birth of Christ, but for me when I think of Christmas I see dollar signs and expectations. Grim I know, but let’s be honest. Many of us feel this way.
This year has proven to be no different ,and in many ways, it’s been much worse than in years past. At the beginning of the month, we got behind financially. Unexpected medical bills, broken cars and just general financial chaos ensued leaving no money for Christmas presents. So I did what any good journalism major does and began an investigative reporting of sorts, writing the story of my plight and submitting it to the One I knew could fix it.
I followed the inverted pyramid of journalistic reporting, asking the who, what, when, where, why and how of the situation, attempting to get to the bottom of this predicament. In journalism we are taught to say as much as possible in as few words as possible, so I wasn’t looking for long lengthy answers from my Source. I just needed some quick answers followed by equally quick solutions that would get me out of this situation and back into the world of sliver bells, roasting chestnuts, and packages tied up with string. That’s all I wanted.
Of course, any editor worth their salt keeps a tight reign on the writer, never crowding the voice or style of the writer but always steering the story in the direction they want it to go. In college this used to annoy the snot out of me. I thought I’d written a great piece on the school play only to have it returned with so many red pen markings it was nearly impossible to see what I’d actually written. Most of the time the editor felt I was asking the wrong questions. It seems old habits die hard because this time was no different. The following are the questions I was attempting to answer in this particular “story”:
1). Why are you doing this to me, God? Why don’t you want me to have Christmas for my kids?
2). What in the world are you doing, God?
3). How are you going to get us out of this, God?
4). When will this madness be over, God?
5). Who will You send to fix this, God?
6). Where in the world are you, God?
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Short, sweet, to the point, and highly confrontational. The other thing about editors is that they’re used to writers throwing fits and disagreeing with them. They’re tough as nails and not easily shaken. Ignoring my tantrum, the Editor sent my story back with some suggested rewrites. Apparently, I was asking the wrong questions…again. Here are the questions, edited so as to move the story in the direction He wanted:
1). Why are you so angry?
2). What is at the core of this anger, resentment, anxiety?
3). How do your children view Christmas in light of your behavior?
4). When will you finally resign yourself to the idea that I’m not out to get you?
5). Who are you to question my provision?
6). Where are you going for answers?
Hmmph! Not what I was hoping for. So I did what any egocentric writer does and shelved the story for a few days and sulked. It wasn’t pretty. However, despite every effort to squelch the answers I was getting, they flooded in bringing to a close the story I’d set out to write.
Here’s what I learned:
1). In my post-debt lifestyle, there are rules my husband and I follow to maintain that lifestyle. But at Christmas we throw all the rules out the window because it’s Christmas. We deserve to have one time of the year where the rules don’t apply. Entitlement is a ruthless master. Besides feeding the already inflated it’s-all-about-me attitude, it drives an otherwise sane human being to make illogical decisions. Things like taking out loans to pay for Christmas (I have not done this but know of people who have), indulging in a pity party when things don’t work out according to plan, questioning God’s provision and comparing it to what we think provision should look like and a myriad of other insane behaviors become the Christmas norm.
2). Despite my feelings, I need a little Christmas. I need the baby in the manger in the stinky stall surrounded by bleating sheep and mooing cows. I need it because without it all I’m left with are Christmas trees, shiny packages and a bunch of carols about a non-existent guy in a red suit. And while all of this looks beautiful and desirable on the outside, none of it can even begin to penetrate my deepest need which is peace and hope.
3). Once again I’ve come face-to-face with mankind’s uncanny ability to turn the holiest of days, a day that would usher in world peace forever, into something ugly and enslaving. Christmas is Christmas in its truest meaning no matter what the external circumstances. One of the best ways I’ve found this month to deal with the less than desirable circumstances is to embrace them for what they are, change my thinking and mentally allow myself the joy of what this season is.
4). You can’t outthink God. I gave Him several suggestions on how He might remedy my situation-things like bigger-than-normal bonuses from my clients, checks for thousands of dollars in my mail box, a stranger stopping me on the street and offering me money, etc. They all sounded pretty good to me. But nothing happened until I took a deep breath and surrendered my warped view of Christmas to God. I am not kidding you when I tell you that within two days of an attitude change the coffers were opened and Christmas came to our house from the most unexpected people and in the most unexpected ways. God has given us over and above what we asked for, and most of it did not come from our pockets. Our kids are getting about a third of their usual Christmas gifts, and they have been brilliant about it. At one point my daughter actually said that we all needed a heart change in the area of Christmas. Hmmm. She did not learn that from me.
So I don’t know what Christmas looks like for you or what baggage you bring into this season. What I do know is that to embrace it for what it is, is to finally begin to experience why it is.
May the peace of God that transcends all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus this season.