The Joyous Gift of Christmas Disappointment

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We think the smells of Christmastime are cinnamon sticks, cloves, and oranges. Of pine trees and baking gingerbread. These are not. The true smells of Christmas are the stink of animal dander and slobber on your pillow. The smell of slop in a feeding trough. The smell of blood and sweat and broken water. Maybe we don’t really understand Christmas until we have one that hurts. One that failed to meet our expectations.

We think the sounds of Christmas are Josh Groban, a chorus of silver bells, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. They are not. The true sounds of Christmas are the agonizing cry of labor, the moans and groans, and the cry of a baby with such strong lungs He pierces the darkness.

Maybe we don’t understand Christmas until we share in His cry?

We imagine Norman Rockwell mornings of Grandma in an apron baking cinnamon rolls. We envision chubby cheeked babies running around, rosy, full of excitement and wonder at the treasures in their full stockings. We imagine all of us, together (and actually nice to each other).

Maybe we don’t really understand Christmas until we can’t give our children the good gifts we long to give them? Mary and Joseph didn’t get that privilege.

To the weary woman who travels this Christmas, who got up longing only for her own bed… to you, you get the true joy of Christmas. You get to share with Mary. The last thing a 9 month pregnant woman wants is to travel in December.

To the exhausted man, who feels helpless in how to provide for his family, who is trusting God in something that seems unthinkable… to you, you get the true joy of Christmas. You get to share with Joseph. He so longed to do things “right” by the eyes of the upright around him. Instead, he surrendered to what was “right” in the eyes of his God. He surely wanted to give his bride better than that dirt cave. He surely wanted more for his son than a trough.

To the one who feels exposed by Christmas.  To the one who is mad at herself for being mad. To the host who feels taken for granted. To the one who feels like the black sheep of the family. To the one whose spouse is deployed. To the family who just lost their jobs. To the children whose parents just separated. To the widowed dad grieving the loss of his wife. To the business man who feels taken advantage of. To the farmer who lost his crop. To the widow. To the orphan. To the homeless. To the weary. To the broken-hearted. To the grieving. To the lonely.

To you! The angels are singing to you! The stars are proclaiming to you. You and all the shepherds. You and all the kings. To you! This is Christmas! This is good news! That God is near.  The Kingdom of Heaven is with you! You are not alone!

Somehow, we expect Christmas to be the one day a year that we don’t feel the pain, that we don’t cry out. But as I cried out this morning, as I screamed out in pain and agony, I finally understood. This is true Christmas, when things didn’t go as I hoped or planned. I cry out and thank God for giving me the joyous gift of Christmas, in all its disappointments. It’s full of questions and where will we go from here. And those questions, in a heartbeat, lead us to the only One Who Knows. The One Who Writes our Stories.

He didn’t treat His Son as a King with the finest food and clothing and extravagant gifts. For His own Son, He had to hold back. He had to reign it in. He could have given Jesus the world, and yet, He gave him the lowliest. He had to entrust His Holy Child into the hands of a frail and broken humanity.

Why did this God who gives good gifts to His children hold back for His very own son?

God so loved the world that He gave His very own Son. That whoever believes in Him will have life abundant and eternal.

Why did this God who gives good gifts to His children hold back for His very own son?

Jesus became a curse for us, so that we don’t have to have any more curses.

Why did this God who gifts good gifts to His children hold back for His very own son?

But this third that time I ponder this question, I think, “Did God actually hold back??”

Because we are promised that those whose walk is blameless lack no good thing. So, by faith, we believe that’s truth. Maybe all the things we think Jesus lacked that day weren’t the good things after all. God gave Jesus every good gift. Maybe they were just the unseen kind. They were gifts called prophecy, patience, kindness, spiritual authority, prayerfulness, the gift of tongues, the gift of wisdom and revelation. You bet God gave His Son good gifts. He gave Him the best gifts! Gifts that don’t rust or fade or get tossed in a few years.

So no matter how much you may relate to the picture I painted earlier of Mary and Joseph in earthly realms, let’s now add the things unseen to the picture. Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see? A star?  Shining in the night? The angels? The strangers sharing in the joy of a newborn? The peace over that family? The Rest they had in Christ? The unity they had? The joy of knowing God spoke to them. His voice, sweeter than honey!

You, whose walk is blameless, you lack no good thing. That means, whatever you may feel lacking today isn’t really a good thing for you. God gives GOOD gifts to His kids. Ask Him for the gifts you can’t see. Ask Him to reveal them today. All He asks from you today is the sweetness of a child’s “Thank you!” and “You’re such a good Father to me!”

Thank and praise Him, Oh my soul. His joy is your strength.

And a Merry Christmas. I love you dearly. And I miss you.