Christmas stirs hope. There is a palpable excitement around gift-giving and tree-trimming and party-hopping. And there is also the (legitimate!) hope that the same Jesus who came once upon a time will come once again.
But the reality for many is disappointment, once again. Sure, we’ll numb ourselves with countless distractions. We’ll play Bing Crosby tunes as we sip cider, we’ll shop until our feet hurt, we’ll make plans and think up ‘white elephant’ gifts and watch the Advent candles lit every Sunday.
But we’ll hurt.
Sure, few will see. After all, Christmas is all about happiness and hope. But you can’t shake your disappointment, can you?
You’re single again this year. Or, perhaps, you’re single for the first time in a while.
Your sense of financial security is hanging by a thread.
Your kids are far more of a mess than you ever thought they’d be.
Your marriage is a dance of strangers.
Your 20-something idealism has turned to 30-something cynicism.
You have to spend the holidays with a family that doesn’t get the pain they caused you.
You’re not making in the dream job.
You’re desperately unhappy in your dead end job.
Amidst it all, ads come on the television that show new cars wrapped in bows, red lingerie on Santa’s supermodel helpers, happy families gathered ’round the fire, and gorgeous homes with stockings and fireplaces and trimmed trees.
And each Sunday, another candle is lit. Advent. Longing. And it hurts so bad.
And that’s exactly what you’re doing there this Sunday morning. There is no need to anesthetize any more. Feel the disappointment. Walk the long walk Mary and Joseph walked in the shadow of powerful Herod’s military palace, symbolizing Roman hope and shaming the weak and feeble. Enter Bethlehem only to feel unwelcome and abandoned. Claim your justified doubts about God’s plan in all of it. Go to sleep with the stink of animal manure all around you. Christ is born in that mess, not despite it.
Be there, in your disappointment. Or, you might miss it…