There isn’t a typo in the title of this article. We are all know the phrase “Christmas Morning.” But Christmas and mourning? This is not the stuff that catchy holiday songs or Hallmark channel Christmas movies are made of. Yet to one degree or another, most of us have experienced disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement, or depression on Christmas day.
It can be tempting to laden Christmas with a weight of expectations that no day can bear. And as it buckles under the weight of our expectations, in some cases dashing them to the ground, we may begin to see more clearly that perhaps we’ve been a bit intoxicated by the Christmas “spirit” and need to revive our spiritual senses.
It is natural, understandable, and even good to want an enjoyable Christmas. After all, who wouldn’t want a day of familial harmony, joy, and togetherness? Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a wonderful, home-cooked (to one degree or another!) meal? Who wouldn’t want to give and receive gifts surrounded by twinkly lights and flickering fireplaces with carols playing in the background, perhaps with a few cute children thrown in for good measure? And if any of us lack imagination as to what that day “should” look like, there is no shortage of commercials and movies around the holidays to give us warm and fuzzy images of what an ideal Christmas should look like.
But what if it all falls flat? What if the family gets together and it’s nothing but frustration and disappointment? What if sickness or serious illness makes the planned Christmas celebration impossible? What if bad weather keeps you from seeing your family and causes you to spend Christmas all alone? What if someone you love is conspicuously absent through a recent break-up, divorce, or death? From the trivial to the traumatic, we can easily become disillusioned, discouraged, or depressed, when Christmas doesn’t “deliver” the type of peace on earth and goodwill toward men that we expect (and sometimes wrongly demand) from it. The perfect day we long for ends up just like the other 364…not perfect. Somehow broken. Never immune from the curse of sin.
It is these Christmas experiences that reveal our hearts, and even how we fundamentally view the celebration of Christmas and the incarnation of Jesus Christ on the ground level of real life. Many of our Christmas expectations come from a longing for a perfect day that’s a break from the brokenness of everyday life. Yet Christmas means that Jesus left the perfect days of heaven to situate Himself right in the midst of the brokenness of this earth. We long for loving and harmonious union with friends and family. Yet Christmas means that Jesus left perfect fellowship with the Father and Holy Spirit to situate Himself in the midst of people who didn’t understand Him, tried to use Him, hated Him, betrayed Him, and abandoned Him. We long to be in a beautiful, warm, and cozy home. Yet Christmas means that Jesus left His Father’s house and came to situate Himself in the feeding trough in a barn with poor parents. There were no twinkly lights in the manger.
In different ways, we all come to Christmas (as we do in all of life), with some set of expectations. They may be small or large. They may be recognized or unrecognized. They may be fulfilled or they may be shattered. And when they are shattered and we are confronted with them, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Just as we seem to be moving further away from the meaning and celebration of Christmas by our disappointing circumstances, we may actually be moving into position to press deeper than ever before into the true meaning of Christmas, if by God’s grace we choose to step in that direction.