to be jolly. hm.
christmas season is my favorite time of year--i guess it technically isn't a season so it doesn't surpass fall, but it is my favorite month-long time of the year by far. i love the anticipation of the season, all looking forward to that great day of arrival, of God coming to be with us, of emmanuel. i love the lights. i love the cold. i love the music (well, some of it). but most of all it is the spiritual side of it, the joy of the greatest gift that humanity has ever received.
but this year i just don't have that excitement. life does not feel like a gift, and God's presence does not seem like cause for celebration and glad tidings. there is a loss, a lack in me now that quiets the carols and mutes the bells. there is a sting that cuts at the heart and seeps bitterness, flooding the seeds of joy and hope. because isn't that what christmas is about? hope? the hope that a savior has come to rescue us from...from what exactly again? from the cruelties of this world? from death? from slavery to sin? from pain? from struggle? i've heard all of those but they're not all right.
i think often with christmas we forget that the coming of jesus wasn't just about laying down his sweet head. or do we forget that the wise-men's gifts were burial spices? his coming meant his death for us. and it meant the coming of all of our deaths--sure our resurrection too, but death first. it meant the coming of the need to take up our cross daily. the coming of our exile into being aliens and strangers in this world.
what it comes down to is how you respond to the arrival of Christ in your own life. there will be great joy and great freedom, but in time there will also be great pain and much loss. it is the path of the disciple. it might be a long time before Jesus brings you there, but we all must drink his cup. there is no getting around it. not if we want to follow him.
so do you want to follow? i know i haven't made it sound the most appealing, and i perhaps like matthew am given a moment to hesitate. see caravaggio tell it:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:68.
do we welcome the Lord into our lives only when he is coming in joy and peace and comfort? or do we celebrate the coming of the new born king? a king that we subject ourselves to--that goes against our idea of freedom and always choosing/getting what we want, doing what we want to do. a king who can take anything from us at any moment, because it is not really ours but his. a king who will send us this way or that to accomplish his purposes. if you're going to be that kind of subject, you better very deeply believe that he is good. and that you are not like any other normal citizen, but that you are a beloved son or daughter. you will not be sent out needlessly or carelessly into the fray. but you will be sent out.
peace on earth goodwill toward men - "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Matt. 10:34
oh tidings of comfort and joy - "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
o come o come emmanuel - these are the lyrics to my favorite christmas song. and they are the words that i need to reach my heart...