Christmas can be a nostalgic season. For many it is a painful reminder of who is no longer present. For most of us, there will also be happy memories tied into Christmas – the big meals, the special outings, the family gatherings, the fireplace, the Christmas stockings, etc.
Perhaps we look back to Christmas as a child and now know the other side of that. Perhaps it is only for the sake of children today that we bother with all that is involved. After all, meals require lots of planning and shopping in often insanely busy supermarkets. Presents take planning, paying and wrapping, not to mention hiding. Family gatherings are sometimes more complex and difficult for adults than the children could even fathom.
Christmas – a season of being busy and on the verge of burnout? It can feel that way.
Perhaps there is an upside to that though. The first Christmas was not as nostalgic as our Christmas card images. Mary and Joseph were under stress. The wise men were under stress from Herod. The shepherds had their worlds rocked by that angelic visit. The whole region was under stress from the census. Their stress was not our stress, but nostalgic and cosy it was not.
Jesus did not come as a visitor to experience only our best hospitality and the facade of our being in control. He came right into the heart of our stressed world. He saw us at our worst. He experienced the exact opposite of middle eastern hospitality for most of his recorded ministry. He came right to the heart of our messed up world.
When Christmas is marked with stress this year, remember that Jesus came into that for our sake.
And if you get a moment or two with your feet up, enjoying fine food and good company, remember that because Jesus came into our mess, we can experience the richness of the world as he intended it to be.
This Christmas, may every happy moment stir your heart for heaven, and may every stressful moment point your heart to Christ.