By Jill Hoskyn
I can’t help myself. The word has a glow. Probably still the remains of my childhood anticipations…
The wistful dream that snow would fall fresh on Christmas Eve… the enchantment of twinkling lights… aromatic fir boughs… the sparkling fun of home-made creations … the music – oh the luxurious music of English choirs spiralling in grand cathedrals… the delight of searching quaint little shops for packages to make loved ones smile… good will and laughter filling our hearts and our homes…
Christmas, the time of dreams. Dreams of perfection . . . of joy, relational harmony, beauty, peace, hope.
A time of dreams fulfilled — and dreams dashed. A time of overfull-ness — and emptiness. The annual summit of our western cultural celebrations. The pinnacle of family togetherness and love — or not.
And if it’s not, then we are faced with that cold reality. Christmas marred, despite all of our best efforts. Lives marred, despite all we had hoped for.
This September, after years of not belonging to a small group or a Bible Study, I made up for it by joining not one, but two. I used to love the book of Isaiah – but I guess I was skipping over the hard parts and just enjoying the beautiful word pictures, the hopeful parts that we sing about in The Messiah. But when you join Bible Study Fellowship, you can’t skip anything. And I’m less than encouraged by much of what Isaiah has to say.
Then, the Life Group that meets in our home each week made a bold decision: “Let’s read the whole, entire Bible, from beginning to end!” So I’m getting a huge dose of the Old Testament. And I’m groaning under the heaviness of it. The people’s inability to get it right, to do things God’s way, and God’s judgment as he tries to bring them back to Him … over and over, on and on.
And worse – the more I look at the Old Testament people, the more I recognize how very messy I am on the inside; the more I’m faced with my total inability to do things God’s way. Like the Jews in the Old Testament, I’m weary for relief from this impossible cycle.
I can hardly wait for Jesus! I need to see the face of God.
You know, the world was a mess the first time Jesus showed up. Even though it was Christmas, they couldn’t get it together! Far from dreamy, that first Christmas was strained by misunderstanding, uncertainty, political and relational tension… in a dirty noisy town among stressed-out strangers … entirely inconvenient, definitely risky.
But he came anyway. Because when we sin and mess up our lives, God doesn’t leave us on our own. He enters into our trouble and saves us.
This past year stands out from others in our family. It’s been entitled “the Year of the Colon”. And you thought it was the Year of the Tiger! I underwent two major surgeries, chemo and radiation, and took up residence at Surrey Memorial Hospital for a month in the spring. There were days when I just wanted God to show up, sit on the edge of my bed and stroke my head tenderly.
Though it’s easy to see God as harsh and judgmental, even dangerous, in the Old Testament, think about Christmas. What could be more tender than a baby? One mention of my grandbabies and I melt in a puddle over their tenderness. Babies are so tender, so vulnerable, so dear.
When God intervened in our messy world, he came as tender as tender can be. He was handing us his baby.
This baby grew to become the most wonderful counsellor of all time, and the bringer of peace to our souls.
As humans, we naturally try to hide our sins from others, disguise our messiness, dress up our faults. But a most wonderful discovery awaits us. To look bad, to be a mess, in the presence of Love – that’s liberating! That’s Christmas.