This was my first real “adult” Christmas, in my eyes anyway. And it didn’t take too long to see why lots of adults don’t like Christmas. Finding “the perfect gift” for people is hard. Dividing up time between families is difficult to figure out. And finding the perfect balance between connecting with people over the holidays and yet not running yourself ragged… yeah, that’s hard too. Christmas is a rough time for overachievers, for pleasers, for perfectionists, for people who always want things to be special. And I find myself in any combination of those categories daily. The weeks leading up to Christmas this year sometimes felt like they were waffling back and forth between stressful and simply chaotic. I didn’t do as good of a job as I’d have liked stopping, taking deep breaths, enjoying the time, being present.
But when we left town, eliminating the possibility of washing one more dish, going to one more event, buying one more presence… I felt worlds different. I didn’t just enjoy the holiday with (both sides of) my family, but I thought a lot about the idea of Immanuel. The whole idea of Christmas is deity with skin on, the word becoming flesh and moving to the neighborhood… God with us. As I’ve entered grown up life, I’ve felt far. I’ve seen how adults can get to a point in life where Christian is just a label or a social club… not by any particular rebellious choice, but just because life seems so overwhelming and spiritual things feel so far away. And so this year, Christmas was particularly sweet, even though I let the pre-Christmas things get to be too much. Because even though Jesus was probably really born in the summer and the wise men didn’t actually come til later and blah blah blah… in the middle of December we get time off work (most of us, anyway) to celebrate the historical event of God coming near.
Here’s to another year of clinging to the belief that he’s here, preaching peace to the far and the near. A year of believing that when we’re weak, he’s strong. A year of trusting him to be faithful. Immanuel. I can’t think of a better word to lead us into the new year. God is with us. Even in the midst of deadlines, of anxiety, of dirty dishes. Even in the midst of Christmas.