Oddly enough, I did not choose this picture because it looks like the airborne little goat has aspirations to pull Santa’s sleigh. That was an amusing after thought. I chose this picture because lately I have diverged from my Christmas music a bit to indulge in the Glee version of “Defying Gravity.” I love this song. I really want to see the musical Wicked from whence this song came. I digress. In relation to Christmas, this song makes me think that in some sense the incarnation is about God “defying gravity” for our sakes. Jesus is God made flesh. In Jesus, God is doing a new thing outside the normal progression of nature. Supernatural becomes natural. God becomes human. Not the way it usually works. God “defying gravity” because God loves us that much. How cool is that?!
Sticking with the “Defying Gravity” theme, then we have Mary’s song, Luke 1:46-55 , which calls attention to how God’s ways defy the gravity of the ways of the world. God’s ways are about looking with favor on the lowly, scattering the proud, bringing down the powerful, lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry and sending away the rich. The gravitational pull of this world is that the rich are powerful and the hungry get hungrier. God turns the ways of this world upside down and claims the poor as blessed. God enters the world as a child claiming weakness and service as the way God is loose in the world. God defies gravity working to bring forth the Kingdom of God and calls us to do the same. Sing it with me now, “It’s time to try defying gravity....”
The Kingdom of God began breaking into the world in a new way through that baby in a manger. This is what is exciting and meaningful to me about Christmas. There are other things that I enjoy for sure. But underneath it all is this resounding beat. As we embarked upon the Christmas season, I wrote a prayer in A Prayer for the Christmas Season about this deep meaning that moves me so and prayed for Christmas to linger. I am trying to maintain the spirit of that prayer throughout the season. Then clanging onto the scene comes commercials, and buying, and arguing over the words we use to celebrate the season, etc. I know I should not let this distract me but it is like trying to listen to a favorite song while someone in the next room whistles the Smurfs theme. Not that there is anything wrong with Smurfs. I love the Smurfs. It’s just so distracting. But that resounding beat is still there. Listen. Can you hear it?
It may not technically be winter yet but it’s cold. And it’s dark. And did I mention it’s cold and there isn’t much sunlight? Don’t give me any lip about having complained mere months ago about the heat. Having experienced months of 100 plus degree weather does not make my skin any more impervious to cold! The animals’ water still freezes. The wind still blows. Interpret that last as you will. Anyway, the point is this time of the year a celebration is sooo welcome. I don’t know how it is in warmer climates. If you live there write me and tell about it. But around here it’s cold and the hours of daylight are short. So, while we need to be mindful of things like materialism, let’s occasionally give in to the festivities a bit. Celebrate life and light in the midst of the darkness as you spend time with loved ones. Crank up that Christmas music, dance off some of those Christmas candy calories, and just enjoy yourself for a bit.
I have had a revelation that will come as no surprise to many of my family members: I should lighten up. Sometimes I become so focused on trying to live my life in the way I should that I drive myself and my loved ones a little nutty. This realization came to me as I researched toy companies to see from whom I could ethically buy toys for my children. The options are limited and companies are strong in one area while being weak in another. I was driving myself nuts trying to figure this all out. Stressed Out Mommy is not a good present to give my children for Christmas. So, I did the best I could and let it go on the rest. Cut yourself some slack this Christmas. I know this sounds like something you have heard many times before. But, my point is we are not all Martha Stewarts in pursuit of some allusive perfect Christmas and ways to make the house oh so pretty. Sometimes our busyness comes from trying to do good things like attending all our childrens' activities, working for charity, visiting folks who could use a good friend. But we need to remember that even Jesus took time off to pray and just be. Cut yourself some slack this Christmas. It will be a great present for your loved ones.
Last week I wrote about people who are experiencing grief this time of the year. As I reflected further on this topic I realized something: most of us are in a sense experiencing grief this time of year. Some are certainly experiencing grief more acutely and we need to hold those people in our hearts and prayers. But, anyone who has experienced loss knows that grief lasts more than a year. While we do become accustomed to our grief and the sharpness of it lessens, when holidays come around, even years later, the memories and the feelings stir our hearts. I doubt that there are many who reach adulthood without knowing something about this. My heart aches for those who learn about grief as children. It seems too great a burden for little ones to bear and yet many of them do. Let us pray for these young ones and let us not be afraid to share memories together of all those whom we are missing this Christmas.
My daughter asked me to sing her a short song at bedtime the other night. So, I sang the first verse of “Away in a Manger”. Then she said, “Isn’t there more to it than that?” So, I sang another verse, the one that ends “I love thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky, and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.” These words reminded me that this little baby in a manger is the same one whom we ask to stay near us, to guide us, to be at work in us. This is the same one who died for us, who stands in solidarity with us when we suffer, who saves us. I remember when my eldest child was born looking at her and wondering at who this little child would be. At Christmas we celebrate the Christ child knowing who he will be. What a precious gift.