As Christmas as come and gone, I’m reflecting on the two Christmas narratives that run concurrently during the month of December. On Christmas narrative is the ideal portrayed best in various holiday movies and songs, on in the wondrous photo taken above (the photographer and photograph was linked via pinterest). There is a particular channel on that runs Christmas movies almost nonstop during the month of December and every movie ends in typical fashion: the guy and the girl get together, there’s snow, there’s a fire, and family somehow melds together in wonderfully beautiful ways. Or, just think of some Christmas favorites with lyrics that describe chestnuts roasting by an open fire, a dream of a white Christmas, etc.
I need not go on as I’m sure you are familiar with such Christmas ideals. And, if we are honest, we long for this. I know I do. No matter who the people are who you imagine sitting by a fire with chestnuts roasting, we long for such peace, wholeness, happiness, and joy. I believe we long for things always work out just right. These movies and songs speak to our deepest longings. This is what I call the ideal Christmas. I’d love to wake up to a white Christmas. I’d love for everyone I see to be one with whom there was such joy that only hugs, handshakes, and tears could express all the emotion. Tables would be filled only with laughter and memories, not pain, hurt, or regrets. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
I think so. But, alas, that’s not reality, the other Christmas narrative.
We are honest enough to realize, however, how rarely things always work out “like the movies.” Pain, frustration, and anxiety often tag along with holiday memories. Maybe it’s struggles navigating the complexities of families, stress over finding the “right” gift, or maybe the problems are far larger. Maybe holidays are spent at the bedside of loved ones, young or old, who are facing insurmountable odds. For others, maybe the pain of Christmas comes when everyone else has somewhere to go, and the sting of loneliness of remarkably bitter.
It seems we in the Christian world offer the same dichotomy of Christmas narratives surrounding the birth of Christ. So many of our illustrations of Christ’s birth are nice, neat, and clean. How unrealistic. The profound sense of pain had to be palpable. Even with modern medicine, birth’s are still rather painful. I can’t imagine. The smell had to be rather crude. And, we’re talking a young girl, no older than 15, giving birth. The one to whom she gave birth was none other than the maker of the moon. That Christmas was nothing near the ideal. But, that Christmas morning, the morning of Christ’s birth, is the only means of my hope that a day will come when the Christmas we all long for, the one without pain, sadness, loss, disease, war, and death, the one with happiness, joy, love, warmth, communion, and family will happen.
Jesus’ remarkable life, ministry, death and resurrection includes as a sub-theme the final reconciliation of all things. Jesus promised death as an enemy to be eradicated, families’ to be reunited, hope to be fulfilled, and love to be remaining foundation of our lives. Without this promise, without the possibility that our lives, work, families, children, and relationships will carry on after our deaths, I see no meaning or purpose whatsoever under-girding anything we do. If the sum of all my accomplishments really will vanish completely on the day of my death, and that could be even tomorrow, why?
But. . . What if . . .?
What if what we do here carries on? What if our endeavors to bring his kingdom here actually has direct correlation to life beyond death? What if our relationships matter? Our work matters? What if everything actually matters? What if we had a basis to believe every wrong would be righted, every evil met with justice, every loneliness remedied? What if, like Lewis once put it, even “death worked backwards”? What if like my daughter’s children’s Bible put it “everything sad would come untrue”?
Christmas is yet another reason why I can’t help but fully affirm the Christian narrative. Outside the incarnation where the God who created all things willingly clothed himself in human flesh, feeling what it is to be human, to feel hunger, pain, sadness, loss, loneliness, etc., I find no hope for mankind. Without the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ, we are without hope.
Yet, I see hope in the human heart. I read about hope when literature ends well. I hear hope in our lyrics and poems. I see hope when justice and love wins and evil is defeated. I hear the hope of the human heart every time a tragedy occurs and the voices cry out “It ought not be this way.” In other words it ought to be better, it ought to be right and good. To this, I say yes!
Where, though, does this hope come from?
Hear C.S. Lewis:
“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”
― C.S. Lewis,
The tale of two Christmases might be described as the difference between the “already” and “not yet.” The Christmas we long for is coming. We hear faint rumors the turkey is in the over, the pie’s are just about finished, and the final touches are being set about the house. The hour hasn’t come for the party to begin, but it’s close.
My experience this Christmas only more firmly rooted my belief the Christian narrative just makes sense of our full human experience. It answers my questions, and even provides a basis for my hope that my two Christmas narratives will soon be one.