I’m supposed to be writing a Christmas Eve sermon.
But I’m not. I’m wasting time writing this blog post instead.
I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always had this problem with Christmas…..the whole holiday just bothers me. I suppose it could be the commercialism; the buying gifts; the parties; the excessive eating, drinking and baked goods; the lights that go up for a couple weeks, wasting electricity and then being taken down quickly afterwards; the cheesy non-stop Christmas songs; and all the “happy excitement” of traveling and spending time with people. Frankly, I’d rather be celebrating Festivus. Airing of grievances, feats of strength…now that’s a holiday I can get my mind around.
Yeah, I’m a Grinch. And while you could just chalk this up to the cynic in me, a bit of holiday-induced depression, even now as a pastor, I still have this general disdain for Christmas. I’m struggling, thinking about going to church, leading worship and giving a message that will “proclaim the gospel” when in all actuality what I say won’t really matter. People just want me to be a good host, and I have this not so minor dread of having to be all shiny and happy…..and around all the happy people – the regulars and those that simply come to church now and on Easter.
I hate Christmas.
As I sit here and think about why this is, I realize that today I presided over another funeral today. I made a couple visits to shut-ins, with one man greeting me as I arrived with, “It’s good to see you Pastor. I thought today was the day…and I’m so ready. Why won’t the Lord just take me?” I think about those people like this man, tucked away in assisted living and nursing homes, alone, briefly visited by their families for an hour, two hours, and then…alone. I think about the funerals I’ve done this past 2-plus months – 6 to be exact – and families will be without their loved ones for the first time. I think about all the people who still suffer – homeless, hungry, impoverished. I think about those who will experience violence – a not so silent night around the world.
I think about all this…..and I think: Merry Christmas? Fuck that.
I hate Christmas. But I realize the Christmas I despise is something so disconnected from what I understand who God is and what God is about. I want Christmas to be something so much different. But I realize for many out there, Christmas is a time to forget about their problems and the problems all over the nation and world. For one day, you just don’t have to think about it.
But I can’t do that. I feel a sense of shame and remorse when I try….because suffering is still very real in our world. People are alone. People die. People still struggle. That shit doesn’t go away. And Especially on this day, I can’t turn away for all of it.
So I seek for something else during this Christmas Day. Perhaps a sense of peace that my soul simply will not feel during this time of year, and having struggled with it my whole life, probably never will. Yet I long for it – I long for a sense of peace outside myself that I simply cannot bring to bear on my own. Honestly, I don’t expect I’ll experience it – but each year, I hope for it. And for me, that’s enough. It’s enough that I keep myself tuned to it, expecting it in places I might overlook:
A quiet sanctuary.
A smile as I stop by the gas station for a cup of coffee.
A moment or two being fully present with my wife that my life never seems to grant me.
Looking up at the night sky and being overwhelmed by the sense that indeed, I am not alone, and neither are all those people I worry about either.
I still hate Christmas. But in the midst of all the damn busy – the rush, the chaos, the annoying optimism and happiness, I seek peace in this story about a child born over 2,000 years ago that people say….was God – the one who promises to bring peace to a world that needs it.