I promised myself I wasn't going to be a total grinchhole about Christmas this year.
I also promised I'd have the tree up before December 10th, get all the shopping done and gifts wrapped early, give beautiful plates of homemade goodies to all of my friends and neighbors, and not eat my weight in fudge.
The tree went up on December 15th . This, after a last minute trip to the forest to cut down a tree where we arrived 20 minutes before closing, scrambled around in the mud and fog and freezing cold to no avail, only to drive an hour back down the hill and buy a patchy, pathetic tree from the Home Depot parking lot. I'm still not done shopping. Nothing is wrapped. I tried to cheat on the Christmas baking by grabbing some easy recipes off Pinterest, and I ended up buying $62 in cookies and candy to grind up or melt down to make into other cookies and candy. I don't know why I thought I could just mix Oreo mush with marshmallow fluff and call it a day, but the results were unworthy of gifting and mostly inedible. Except that I did eat it, all of it. Plus, double my weight in fudge.
And now I hate everyone.
Christmas just seems to be getting more and more ridiculous, and with a knife-twist of irony, I find myself drifting further and further from Jesus around this time of year. I want to revel in the beauty of God with Us, I want to celebrate the birth of Christ in earnest, I want to delight in the story of Faith, Hope, and Love slipping into the world in a dirty stable on a starry night. I want to rejoice. But it's kind of hard to rejoice in the goodness of baby Jesus when He's buried under a dwindling bank balance, an intentionally ugly sweater, and a small mountain of fudge.
The thing is, I'm conflicted. I really want to participate in our modern Christmas traditions – the tree, the lights, the food, the gifts, the honey baked hams (yes, multiple hams). It's busy and expensive, but it's also fun and yummy, and I am all about the fun and yummy. But at this point there is a glaring lack of Jesus in it all, and combined with the utter ridiculousness of the season, it's starting to make my skin crawl.
The other day, I drove down a street that looked like the Macy's parade took a dump on it; one lawn after another covered in massive inflatable characters donning Santa hats, fat limbs bouncing on the breeze, tethers whipping the ground. There was probably $20,000 in huge balloon creatures on that street alone, and, if you ask me, that's a lot of money to throw away on whimsical Christmas fuckery. Don't get me wrong, I'm not immune to the insanity of Christmas spending. We spent $35 on a Christmas tree and hours to decorate it, and no one in my family can even be bothered to plug in the lights. Like, we don't even care, but it felt wrong to not have a tree. So we buy a tree. And it feels wrong not to give gifts, so we give gifts. And it feels wrong not to eat all the fudge, so I eat all the fudge.
Honestly? I barely love fudge. I only eat it because it's there, and it's only there because it's Christmas, and it's only Christmas because of Jesus. So here I am, twisted up in this tension, baffled by the enigma of celebrating Christ's birth by going into debt and gaining 6lbs. It doesn't feel right... but it feels wrong any other way.
It's like the thing with the manger. You know what I'm talking about?
I love the Christmas story. I really do. I come back to it often during the holidays, especially when I'm stressed about money, feeling the burden of busyness, frustrated by the exploitation of something so pure and good, and sad when the fudge is all gone. When I need to be reminded that we have a genuine reason to have a huge celebration, Luke chapter 2 is my jam.
But I hate the part about the manger. I don't get it. What's the deal with putting your infant in an animal trough?! What was Mary thinking? Like, why not just hold your baby? Lay him next to you. Give him to Joseph. Ask one of those shepherds to lend a hand. I can think of 20 things that would be better than wrapping your newborn up like a burrito and putting him in a manger. I guess she could have set her first child in a nastyass manger because she knowingly anticipated the theological significance of God becoming flesh in the humble form of an infant, and maybe she liked the symbolism of placing the most important baby in the history of the world in the most humble of cradles, but I don't think so.
I think she was probably just tired and drained and over it.
|Come on, neither of you can just HOLD the baby?!|
Whatever. At this point, it doesn't matter, because, while it doesn't always feel right to me, it would feel wrong any other way. The manger feels more familiar and old and real than all the rest of the Christmas bullshit we indulge in combined. A nativity without a manger would feel like some kind of sacrilege. So I can choose to let my irritation at the thought of a newborn baby swimming in a bed of E-coli and donkey slobber ruin the whole story, or I can look at the bigger picture and see that, ultimately, the story of Christmas isn't the story of a manger, it's the story of a Savior.
I don't like the idea of God using a 9 foot blow up snow globe lawn nativity to draw near to the us. I can't even imagine it's possible. But we've seen what He can do with a teen Mom, a poor step-dad, a handful of shepherds, so it's not really out of the question. Even so, I don't want my own attempts at celebrating Christmas to fall into the glittery traps of nothing more than a hollow cultural holiday. I want Jesus to somehow be evident in all of the fun and yummy. I want the whole of Christmas to be a demonstration of how my life is different because of Jesusy things. I want to give gifts out of Jesus generosity. I want to decorate with Jesus creativity. I want to eat Jesus fudge...um...ok. That?....Sounded weird
We've royally mucked up Christmas, I'm quite certain of this. But if there's anything worthy to be found in the gross, materialistic, commercialized mess we've created around the birth of Jesus, it might be the most Christmassy thing of all; that God shows up in the most unlikely places and the most unexpected packages, and then He sets up camp in the most undesirable spaces.
He is with Us.
Even when we're getting it all wrong.
So Merry Ridiculous Christmas, my fellow Holiday haters. Take heart.
Jesus can save this, too.
Are you a Chirstmas Grinchole? Or a Happy Clappy Holiday Apologist? Explain...