I’m always filled with mixed emotions at this time of year. I look forward to my children taking a break from their studies to relax and spend time with the family, and Advent is a wonderful opportunity to meditate on God’s amazing gift in sending Christ into the world.
But then there’s the the stress and the burden of everybody’s expectations. The house must be decorated. Gifts for our loved ones must be picked out, purchased, and wrapped. None of this can be postponed. December 25 is a firm deadline, and it can never be pushed back.
To add to the mayhem of the season, it seems that everybody has a Christmas concert, or a recital, or a party that they want you to attend. The calendar is crammed full. Nobody seems to have figured out that this month includes a very limited number of weekends.
But probably the thing that has always made me feel most ambivalent, or even negative, about Christmas time was the assumption that this was supposed to be a joy-filled season. For years, I felt guilty if the holidays brought me more dread than glee.
What turned my perspective around was the recognition that Christmas wasn’t exactly fun for Jesus. He was born in a barn. No innkeeper in overcrowded Bethlehem was willing to free up a room in which a poor, vagabond, pregnant woman miles away from her home might give birth to her son. The actual circumstances of Jesus’ arrival fell far short of the perfect Hallmark holiday depicted on our Christmas cards.
When the stresses of the season begin to mount, I try to remind myself that I don’t have to censor my emotions for Jesus’ benefit. If the Christmas season leaves me feeling less than gleeful, I don’t need to feel guilty about it. I’m in very good company. Christmas wasn’t exactly fun for Jesus, either.