I love Christmas. And I hate Christmas.
You may very well understand both sides of my sentiment, though your reasons might be different.
I love Christmas for all the obvious reasons: the celebration of Jesus’ birth as central, with all its implications for faith, hope, peace, joy, and love; plus the wonderful accoutrements like delicious holiday foods, Christmas lights, a chance to reflect on the year and send greetings to people I haven’t talked to since last year. And Christmas music is some of the best ever, I think. (Here’s my favorite We Three Kings rendition. And yes, I know the theology of the song is all messed up: they weren’t kings, there weren’t only three of them. But Blondie sure rocks it anyway, doesn’t she?)
I know many hate Christmas (maybe “hate” is too strong a word) because it’s over-commercialized. I get that, but it’s not why I hate Christmas. And others don’t like Christmas because it is filled with empty places: loved ones who have left our lives one way or another, and holiday gatherings are the times those absences are most recognizable. Again, I get that, but not my reason.
As you might guess, my reason is tied to our work with SEED. See, Christmas with all of its US abundance, its orgy of Christmas gifts and advertisements and, frankly, waste, is a constant reminder to me that there are billions of people who don’t have enough food, clothing, shelter, safety and security, to get through each day.
All of this also makes post-Christmas difficult for me. Because after Christmas there are the inevitable complaints and disappointments about what presents we did and did not receive, the need to shop for more organizers to fit all our stuff in, and the almost-as-inevitable credit card payments. Does any of it make the world a better place? Does any of it serve the King or His Kingdom? And if it doesn’t, why do we engage in it?
Additionally, after spending four weeks anticipating the birth of Christ, the new year can often seem like a letdown. All the excitement is over, the Christ and carols and candlelight and cookies. And don’t even get me started on New Year’s Resolutions. And yet …
And yet post-Christmas should be one of the most glorious times. After spending four weeks preparing for Christ’s birth, four weeks of “let every heart prepare Him room” we should be more ready than ever to be who God made us to be and Jesus calls us to be. We should be able to, at least for a short time, retain that centeredness, that focus. And if we can do that, then our New Year’s every year should be a time of anticipation as well: how is God going to work based on what He has prepared us for during Advent?
Now that’s a resolution I can get behind.