Becca is home!
With Becca home for Christmas we are stretching all of the boundaries of our beautiful, cozy but downsized New Mexico home. Before her arrival, I already faced the realization that when you downsize your home, you must downsize your Christmas decor too.
Her car remains mostly packed while our garage is stuffed to the gills. She has spread out in Doug’s office that doubles as our guest bedroom. With Doug displaced, his office has become our kitchen table.
After clearing out the art building on campus, Ian’s bedroom can’t possibly house his many large canvas paintings. They line the hallway and spill over to decorate our garage. A bigger than life-sized self portrait and a massive three scened painting of the loch ness monster can’t simply be taped to the frig.
Embracing the Mess
I’m embracing the mess. It is real life and untidy. I love it. And, I’ve decided, it’s an accurate picture of my heart this season.
Part OCD, part control freak, part my Mother’s daughter, I prefer to live orderly. I’m guilty of rearranging the dishwasher when it isn’t ‘right’. My freezer is not a black hole. The vegetables and healthy options go in the bin on the left, and meat and less healthy options, on the right. The top drawer feature is my fave to collect the homemade pesto, fruit, herbs, ginger and other healthy frozen treasures. Even the kitchen junk drawer has dividers to assist with the quick retrieval of the proper battery or a screwdriver.
While my organization obsession may work within my kitchen, allow it to spill into the rest of my life, where I encounter complicated circumstances and other people with opinions, quirks and foibles and all #### hits the fan. Circumstances and other people simply don’t yield as obediently. I know this, because I’ve tried.
Christmas according to Hallmark
Who else enjoys Hallmark Christmas movies? Guilty. How can you not love their predictability and their satisfying resolution. One thing you can count on, nothing too complicated or stressful will happen. Or if it does happen it will be resolved before the end. Life is all so very neat and tidy, so “happily ever after.” Tied up in a perfect Christmas bow.
I’ve attempted to watch a few this year, but to my surprise, cynicism kicked in almost immediately. At first I thought it was my bah-humbug husband rubbing off on me. But after further consideration, I think it’s my new enhanced lens molded by tough circumstances that has influenced me.
Did you know there is actually a Hallmark app. For the unaware, the app informs you with the what and the when a film is playing. But my favorite feature is the ‘Feel-Good-Moment’ which is included at the end of the film’s synopsis. I envision that this is that moment when the viewer will tilt her head and sigh, “ahhhh” with satisfying approval.
Here are just a few especially syrupy examples.
A Christmas Detour. Feel Good Moment — “Paige realizes she is meant to be with Dylan as the perfect snowy backdrop reunites them.”
Miss Christmas. Feel Good Moment — “Wearing the perfect Christmas sweaters, Sam and and Holly share a joyful dance at the town’s festival.”
Sleigh Bells Ring. Feel Good Moment — “Laurel and David take a break from renovating the sleigh to warm up and catch up over a cup of coffee.”
From A Less Tidy Perspective
As much as I love Christmas traditions and nostalgia the fantasy ‘feel good moments’ no longer sit right with me. As I think about all the other fun ’holiday happenings’ the cookie baking, the decorations, the shopping, the lights, the gifts, they can all serve that same purpose whether Christian or secular. They can distract us. They can make it easy to take our eyes off the untidy, but real Christmas. They can even try to replace it. They are all not enough. Isn’t it strange that the very traditions we rely on to remember and honor the birth of Jesus can actually undermine His presence in our hearts?
Whether we admit it or not, I believe we all, at one time or another, face an undeniable truth. Our own fragility and/or the fragility of the people we love makes Christmas untidy. At the very least our Christmas experience is layered with a lot of different emotions. Love. Sadness. Wonder. Heartache. Fear. Disappointment. Joy.
Christmas was and is UNTIDY
The Christmas Story Luke 1:26-38.
For some grounding perspective consider the real Christmas story that took place in Bethlehem so many years ago.
Pregnancy before marriage is not even a little jaw dropping today, but for two pious Jews in the first century this was a crisis of unbelievable magnitude. Definitely untidy.
And the ‘no room at the Inn’ is no small insignificant detail. The King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Christ would be born in a feeding trough. Preposterous.
I’m confident that Mary and Joseph on that first Christmas in Bethlehem felt many of the same emotions we feel today. Love. Sadness. Wonder. Heartache. Fear. Disappointment. Joy.
Even the Christmas hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem, written by Phillip Brooks in 1865, suggests as much. “The hopes and fears of all the years, Are met in Thee tonight.” The “Thee”, and the One we sing about, was not limited to ancient Palestine or a stable in Bethlehem. That One is available to us.
PHEW! With a great sense of relief, I am thankful to adjust my expectations. Christmas is not neat and tidy, or resolved with a satisfying big red bow. It wasn’t then. And it isn’t today. It is messy, real and miraculous all wrapped up in the same event. And it represents just a beginning.
The Promise of Advent
Advent means “coming.” For Christians, advent focuses on both the ‘back-then’ and the ‘not-yet.’ From both vantage points we remember His gifts of HOPE, LOVE, JOY and PEACE.
- Back-then — Yes, we look back at the miraculous historical event and the coming of baby Jesus.
- Not-yet — We also pause to remember His promise of a second coming. And we prepare for His return.
In all of the miraculous, messy untidy-ness, Jesus is coming again to finish business. He assures us, that THIS, life here on earth, is not all there is.
Matthew 1:23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”
While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, today the church sings the song in commemoration of that first coming AND in expectation of His second coming.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
A Christmas Prayer
Lord, in spite of the season’s distractions help us to remember that this is all the dress rehearsal. Especially for those of us in a fragile place, please help us to remember that your gifts of Christmas are eternal. Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. In the meantime, be with us Emmanuel.
The Hallmark 2018 Blockbuster
The Untidy Hucke Christmas. Feel Good Moment — Remembering with gratitude their Craig Hospital Christmas last year. Lingering meal time with both kids at home. Hectic advent preparations and services. Perspective that the best is yet to come.