This Christmas I received a set of silverware for eight, a skillet, a muffin pan, a smoke detector, and a microwave stand with cabinet space. I was a little surprised in some ways because time seemed to stop when I was still getting dolls and dollhouse furniture. Things have changed a lot since then. Most of the change has been gradual, but this year has been an endless change.
We have always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve here with my grandparents and eaten Christmas dinner at their house. Now my grandmother is no longer with us. This is our first Christmas without her.
Christmas has always been a fun, happy time for us. My sister and I would carry presents in and put them under the tree so very carefully. My grandparents would bring big baskets of packages in from the car, and there were always lots of goodies baked by me and my mom.
This year is different. I bought my parents university sweatshirts because I could not get to the mall before coming home. We ran out of paper, so my sister wrapped our gifts in the left-over scraps and said angrily, "Well, it looks pretty bad, but I don't care." I wanted to say, "But I do!"
My mom walked around the house caught up in her own grief, which manifest itself to the rest of us as a very foul mood. I wanted to tell her to pull herself out like she used to say to me, but that would only make things worse. Where was this joy that was supposed to accompany Christmas? Instead of joy, I sensed bitterness in the air. Christmas was a big inconvenience to everyone.
What would it be like, I wondered, to spend Christmas alone? What would it be like to watch the crowds of shoppers, to hear all the cheerful music, even to sing in the Christmas performances at school, and not be a part of it--especially if I wanted to be but had no one to share it with me?
But this, I realized, was how Christmas began. There was no glamorous preparation for the birth of the Holy Child. There was no excited celebration when Mary became pregnant. Instead, Joseph began making plans to divorce her because the child was not his. Only Elizabeth shared in her joy. If Mary had told anyone else she was going to be the mother of the Messiah, they would have laughed her right out of town.
There were no elaborate gifts or joyful gatherings. Instead, a mother who was to bear her child that very night and desperately needed warmth and shelter took a long journey on a donkey to an inn where there was no room. So she slept and bore her child in a cold, smelly stable. And the king wanted to kill her Child.
Jesus' life was no life of fame and glory. He had no place to call home; for his own people did not believe him. He was mocked by the teachers of the day. His friends betrayed and denied Him, and in the end He died with even God's face turned away. This is no life that we would choose.
Yet we constantly strive to be more like Him: to show the love He showed; to bear our circumstances with the faith He had; not denying them, but willing to trust the Father to take care of them. His glory is a glory which we wait for without seeing it. We wait for it with absolute faith. This is surely the Christ in Christmas.