I read a blog this morning that profoundly changed my perspective on Christmas Spirit. (http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/2014/12/when-youre-not-merry-yet.html?m=1)
Over the last 5 years Christmas looks different for me every year and ‘Christmas Spirit’ has felt very different. One year it was a White Christmas with a loving family in Canada. It was brilliant. Then there was a quiet Christmas with my immediate family in the small South Australian town my Grandmother lives in, where we ate cold meat and chocolate and watched movies most the day. It was brilliant. Last Christmas was at Lake Malawi, with my newly obtained Australian Volunteers Family. It was brilliant.
The Christmas build up is very different in every country, every year for me. In Malawi there is minimal marketing of the holiday, so whilst Game and Shoprite have their shelves of tinsel and bon-bons, the streets are not lined with Christmas lights (given the electricity situation I’m not mourning this), the Christmas pageant didn’t close the city down over a month ago, there are no Santa’s I can go visit and I’m yet to see even a single piece of fake snow, bringing Christmas cheer amongst the 35degree weather.
In all honesty, so far this year my Christmas build up has been a daily grind of getting to work on time, attempting to achieve more tasks than is physically possible each day. Dealing with real issues, brokenness and challenge that any workplace with people brings. My Christmas build up thus far has been working through cultural difference, at a deep and real level. Discerning what it means to live in a world where so many have so little. Wrestling to be quick for forgive and always gracious when values clash and differ. My Christmas build up has been informed by the severe resource shortage in my world and the impact this has on quality of life and opportunity to flourish as individuals, and collectively (in business or aid).
But, “I know there’s room in my heart for the extra shot of joy Christmas brings. Ill get there, I always do. But right now advent is jacking with my heart and Jesus is begging me to do hard things- now- when it feels like the exact wrong time.”
So instead of trying to create a Christmas joy that I’ve previously known, that was, in all honesty often informed by presents, holidays and food. I’ve decided to sit and try to redefine what is Christmas Spirit is, that I might feel a joy deeper than that which fake snow sprayed on the window brings me. (Mum, I hope you’re still using the fake snow spray at home)
Christmas is about how God came, incarnate to earth to live amidst broken men, as a perfect one. He came to weep at the loss of friends, mourn the betrayal of others and share the overwhelming burden of sin, sickness and death in world. But much more so Christmas is about how he came to free us from these things.
“Emmanuel is coming for us, just as much as the rest of them. He’s coming to our pain. He’s coming in to our captivity. He’s coming as our ransom. He’s all the good news and the great joy we’ll ever need. “
This picture of the messy painting, sticky-taped to the wall at work sum up my lead up to Christmas Spirit this year. But this years Christmas Spirit is NOT absent of joy and celebration. It is the remarkable and seemingly miraculous presence of joy in my life and the world around me, amidst the brokenness, loneliness, poverty, cultural challenge and chaos. It has struck me that to find my Christmas Spirit I don’t need to sing carols in a peaceful setting, or escape the chaos that is everyday life. I need to as Sarah Bessey says “lean into the pain”, that I might further discover the joy that Jesus brings amidst the chaos.
So, if you like me are feeling a different sort of Christmas Spirit this year. I implore you, read again the story of the God of the world who was born in a manger, as a helpless baby. And be reminded that salvation, joy and celebration have for a long time been amidst struggle. The glorious end point of the Christmas story is that they wont always be.