Merry Christmas Everyone!!
Hey! Don’t roll your eyes, I am not late. The Christmas season actually lasts through this coming Sunday, the feast of the Epiphany.
Now I have a question for you.
This morning I wrote a Christmas letter for 2013 and I’ll mail it out to some family and friends in the coming days. I really appreciate all of you who are the readers of Messy Jesus Business and many of you are also great friends to me, so I thought I’d share an abridged version of my Christmas letter with you.
As you may know, I have been celebrating Christmas Every Day throughout 2013. Now I have some confessions and lessons to share from my Christmas Every Day experiment.
I started the year with a lot of Christmassy cheer and idealistic intentions while some of the lighter things of Christmas 2012 lingered. I packed Christmas cookies in the freezer, acquired a Christmas sweater, and I developed a greater taste for Christmas music. I kept decorations up up in my bedroom even after we took them down throughout the rest of the house on Epiphany. So, all year I prayed with a nativity scene and a Christmas tree in my bedroom. And, last year’s Christmas cards are still hanging up as I write this now, on December 31, 2013!
In my classroom, I was surprised when some students asked if I was intending to celebrate Christmas Every Day so I could get a gift every day. The receiving of gifts hadn’t even occurred to me as a possible perk when I embarked into my experiment- ha! When I told that to my students, some used my admission as a clever way to ask me to make them some Christmas cookies– which I never actually did, to their disappointment and mine. I tended to be too determined to instill in the lessons of the theology curriculum, not cookies.
A lot of people said “Merry Christmas” to me at random times throughout 2013 and helped me remember my commitment and when this happened, I had a range of reactions. Sometimes I felt warm and cozy, like Christmas can be. Other times, I’d feel a bit annoyed or embarrassed, because I didn’t want to admit that the fun of my Christmas Every Day experiment had worn off.
Honestly, my Christmas Every Day experiment started to feel a bit like a chore in March or April, while the snow was melting and I was looking forward to the arrival of Spring. I realized its REALLY difficult to do something radical very well without the companionship of community. It was around then that I made a more conscious decision to let go of the petty parts of the holiday and delve into its deeper meanings. Otherwise, I figured, I wasn’t going to keep Christmas Every Day going.
What I needed to focus on was the True meaning of Christmas. God became a person and this event– the Incarnation– totally changed everything! It got me thinking: how was I being changed, daily by my relationship with Christ? How was the Word of God making me more into a Gospel-centered woman? As I lived into the answers, I grew to understand that Christ-centered transformation is risky, growth-filled mess mixed right into the commotion of being busy and blessed.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
One of the major gifts of 2013 were fruits that came from living a life in union with the Word of God. Specifically, I found that I still gain a lot of energy and joy as I try to be a writer. (I’ll tell you more about that in an upcoming blog post.)
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.” – Matthew 1:23
There’s been a lot of goodness throughout my 2013, but it hasn’t all been easy or delightful. My increased reflections on the Incarnation this year instilled a lesson: the meanings of Christmas are not all jolly. Santa Claus, gift-giving, and candy canes can be fun, but they’re not the real point. “Merry Christmas” means much more than “hope you’re having fun.”
Celebrating Christmas means entering into the Gospel Truth of Jesus’ dramatic birth story and its lessons about God’s presence in the pain, the mess, the obscene, the awful, the mystery. That’s the real importance of the Incarnation and the great lesson of this year that I want to pass on to others. No matter how much is difficult, how miserable things may seem, or how discouraging or painful your real life is, remember that you are never alone. God is with you always, you are VERY loved and good and a community of Christians are eager to be with you too- to be the Body of Christ for you.
Perhaps these reflections on community and Christ are what compelled me to want to celebrate the ending of my 2013 Christmas with others. I concluded the experiment of Christmas Every Day by hosting a party for some friends and then I enjoyed visiting friends and family during my Christmas break. Life is full and God is so good!
Let us be good to one another. Let us rejoice and celebrate the goodness of God in 2014. It won’t be an experiment or anything special for me anymore, except for my usual counter-cultural Christian living.
Even so, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY EVERYONE!!