I’ve been in conversation with God for some time now about what picture should appear on the front of your Christmas postcard… A scene of Bethlehem? Something tinselly? But no, this odd little bauble-bottle is what keeps coming into my head and there’s no getting away from it…
it doesn’t have a name, as far as I know it doesn’t even exist and I can’t imagine it would be useful, but Jesus often doesn’t follow my rules and I always eventually realise it is easier just to go with what I think he’s showing me! So this is it: A two-chamber bauble-bottle that holds more one type of liquid.
Christmas is just like this.. Christmas is a container that holds more than one thing..
I really love it. I love the kids’ excitement, the preparations, the sense of specialness, the time with friends, the family traditions, the special food, the random animals in nativity plays and even the theologically-challenged carols. I just love it.
Yesterday was my Dad’s birthday, and this will be our sixth Christmas without him. And at this time of year, I miss him more than ever. I can’t enjoy our traditional family singsong without missing the sound of his voice, I can’t watch my kids in a recital without thinking how proud he would have been of them, and I just can’t do Christmas day without missing his energy and sense of fun.
And I’m guessing for many, if not most of you it’s the same. Along with the joy comes an acute awareness of what has been lost.
Christmas is a container that holds both joy and sadness, and somehow they can only be poured out together.
For me, it’s not possible to experience the joy without also walking through the sadness. To not allow one of them to be released from the bottle would be to stifle the other as well. And I really want the joy…
It seems to me, at this time of year, that the world is conspiring to show me a perfect Christmas. One with perfect, complete families where no-one gets sick, or forgets anything, or worries about money or falls out over the rules of a board game. Where teenagers leap with joy at the idea of a game of charades, the roast dinner is all warm at the same time, the whole family gather around the piano to sing carols (in four-part harmony) and above all, no-one feels sad, not even for a moment.
It’s not true of course, there is no ‘perfect’ Christmas. It’s just another impossible standard for me to fail to reach. Not everything has to be perfect anyway, and I suspect that the fact that the joy always comes mixed in with sadness just makes me normal.
For those of you who are similarly normal: Know that God understands. He understands great joy and deep sadness. And he reaches out to carry you through both.
So on this festive postcard I will wish you a Happy Christmas, but because that on its own doesn’t seem quite real enough:
May you have enough joy to soften your sadness
Enough peace to calm your storms
and enough hope to look up into the eyes of the Saviour of the World and to find yourself covered by his love.