One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”
Christmas carries a weight with it, a weight that sits on my chest, threatening to unravel me. The middle of the night desperation, battling expectations, to-do lists, entitlement. The shoulds and musts colliding full force. Cold sweat dripping fear, longing, disappointment. The supposed delight of the holiday season interrogated even before the calendar flips to December.
My work, to create the holiday, to make the experience for my children. But this year, the clash of the world’s neediest with the copious American dream has me reeling. The potent urgency to provide relief, while challenging my comfort; the reconciliation of my excess with the deprivation and suffering wearies me, threatening to abscond with my joy.
On one hand, I find the disparity and discomfort difficult to reconcile with my affluent life. Yet, on the other hand so deeply grateful for eyes that choose to see, and for a heart that seeks to shed relief upon the burdened. I often succumb to the tendency, the need to implant these burdens, somehow upon the hearts of my children. I must demand they know how good their lives are, how #blessed, to make them see and feel and hear the pain of the needy, grasping the privilege they possess.
The greatest responsibility I have is to love my children, while modeling a life of gratitude and generosity. Raising these young men and woman, to send them into the world with full knowledge there is nothing they can or cannot do to alter this love in any way is my work. There is no way to increase or decrease, no way to run and hide, no way to earn more. Our love for our children is here, to stay, forever, only growing.
While observing the Nativity, I visualize passing sterilized towels to Joseph in the stinky stall. The temptation I face, at Jesus’s birth, to allow guilt or shame because of the human I can be, because of my failings, my selfishness, my whining. What I fail to see is this Jesus, this baby come, to spill his love on the ground at the base of the cross. Love dripping, abundant, full of grace and mercy. This is not a mechanism for guilt, this is the avenue for our joy, our purpose, our hope. We are loved with a deep desperation, fierce longing, desire.
This baby, born in the meanest of ways enables us all to live in generous, overflowing extravagance. And I have to believe, I have to dwell, knowing God holds the hurting, the very least of these, closest.
The lessons I hope to impart to my children, through our abundance, through grace and mercy, involve choosing to live in the discomfort, recognizing privilege, honoring the responsibility through being given much.
We will donate money and time to needs that arise. We will involve our children in these choices. We will invite them to the homeless shelter. We will continue to have frank discussions about politics, church, the news. We will not shield them from world events. They will be aware of evil, but I will stake my life on making sure they know the good, they live the good, they receive the good. For through this bounty and security their eyes, ears, hearts, I pray, will burn for justice.
Nothing really changes this year – all of us well provided for. The room will be littered with the detritus of wrapping, bows, tissue, stocking stuffers, and candy. Thoughtful gifts given, hearts and bellies full, the morning over by 9:00. I will retreat to my bed with Netflix, Eric will build stuff. Naps are a definite.
Yes, Christmas is equally beautiful and treacherous. The lists are long, the days are short. I will err, but my hope is I err on the side of love – the richness, the fullness, the infinity of love.
Love, born to us, lived with us, died for us.