I don’t like admitting that my heart hasn’t been in the season this year; in fact, it pains me to say it. Heart not in Christmas – that just sounds wrong. Heart and Christmas are two very ingrained words… up until this year they seemed intertwined and mutually exclusive to the point of synonimity. (If that were a real word.) This year feels different. I can’t explain it, can’t put my finger on it, call it out, or really make sense of it, but it is…different.
I was wrestling with this feeling. Trying to push past the bahhumbugishness and embrace the holiday spirit, my attempts seemed forced and fake. Like I was trying to take something dull and lifeless and transform it into something shiny and bright. Like I was taking the ordinary humdrum wool stockings of life and hanging them by the fire place next to a painted Christmas tree with lights. It wasn’t working, and I was getting more and more confused the closer Christmas got.
My daughter belted out, “10 days til Christmas!” with all the anticipation the season deserves, and I sighed and pulled out my list looking at the names left unchecked. Friends laughed and talked of caroling and sadly, I was relieved that one of the neighbors got sick and it got called off. Is that horrible? Yes. It is. But, it’s honest.
So, today when Maddie woke up with a fever on the day of the Christmas Program, I can’t say that I wasn’t surprised. It seemed about right. We went through the motions of preparation, making food and picking out clothes, but all the while it wasn’t very deep. Pretty much the pre-performance to the program…and my heart again played it’s part in isolation, hiding from the joy.
Then, we got to the church. The atmosphere was dull and dark, no big production, everyone seemed to sigh their hellos and cut off their hugs. My soul was sad. I sat down next to a dear man in the church and finally said out loud, “I’m just not feeling it this year.” He seemed surprised as he looked at me as if to say, “You?!” I nodded. He let out a sigh of relief, “I was afraid it was just me.” He went on to tell me about his stress and his strain and how distant his heart seemed to be, and all the while the Spirit of God in me echoed, “You are not alone.” And, I found my ADD mind wandering to others and to more and thought perhaps there was much more to this apathetic spirit toward Christmas.
Then, it happened. The program got started as kids nervously mumbled their lines and looked for confidence in the faces of their parents. Slowly the story progressed until we arrived at the angels…the heralding, good news messengers of old, that sang the birth announcement to the shepherds in the fields. It started alright, each angel with his and her part, until there was a break down in communication. The angels huddled and regrouped figuring out the speaker and the lines. It was obvious that everyone was pointing to one little girl, the youngest of the group, the precious grand-daughter of the man I’d just been speaking with, and she was terrified. The other angels were getting antsy, and she stood there – silent. A bigger angel in the back tried to tell her her line, hoping to encourage her to speak, but she still stood there, eyes wide, incredible denial filling her face. Realizing everyone was waiting and her line could not be taken by another, she gave in, and like a rush of wind in utter defeat, she said with a sigh, “Jesus is born.” I could not control my laughter! None of us could. It was art imitating life. And, we were entertained!
I laughed so hard I cried (and felt horrible when the sweet girl put her “Angel Song” booklet over her face.) She didn’t understand what many of us were feeling; she had captured our lack of excitement in her bland statement, and something was happening in me. I realized that I was grossly overlooking Christ. He was treated as a commonplace statement filled with exaggerated sigh while I had been focused on all the other things that held no value or hope.
AND IT HIT ME – I had taken Christ out of Christmas. I had seriously forgotten that this season is all about the mundane becoming special, the invaluable being shown as a treasure, and the commonplace finding remarkable meaning in the Light of Christ’s birth. The darkness I was feeling, the lack of joy and spirit, the absence of hope was a child of God succumbing to the “holiday.” I’d like to say that I got up from that pew and I walked out of church with a new perspective and with the heart of a insomniatic Scrooge, I ran from the sanctuary singing and dancing! I’d like to say that, but it simply wouldn’t be true. The truth is, I’m trying. I’m gonna attempt to remember Christ everyday in some special way… and I’m praying for His peace and His joy in my heart because I really could care less about the “holidays” – it’s Christ I want.