Many Christmases ago when my nephew was at the height of the cool toy stage of life, he tore into one of his gifts from my parents, his grandparents, to make the awful discovery that his practical-minded grandma had given him the gift of tidy whities. They were not cool boxers or briefs with cartoon characters on them; they were plain ole white underwear. He was literally shocked, as he blurted out, “Underwear for Christmas!?!?”
Christmas reminds me that life is full of surprises, some good, some not good at all, and some just plain ole surprising.
That was true of Jesus’ birth and his whole life. His birth was humiliating. He really was born in a barn! For most of his life, he was an obscure laborer. The last few years of his life, there was a mixture of people who followed him, many for the wrong reasons, along with an often clueless handful of misfits. Most of the influential people hated him and tried to discredit him and even kill him, but rejects liked him. Eventually, in his mid-thirties, he was tortured and executed. You can see how all of this was very surprising to people, even though it was foretold.
The Christmas weirdness continues to this day. The pervasive holiday cheer amplifies the pain of those who are going through something difficult, those who are reminded of a painful past, and especially, those who are staring at an empty chair at the Christmas feast.
Sometimes crazy things happen at Christmas time. Someone usually has too much to drink at a party. People spend too much at the stores. We eat too much in the name of celebration. Families have too much drama when they are supposed to be warm and loving. It can all get kind of excessive and obligatory and our expectations are dashed like those of my nephew.
So, what else is new? Life has its dashed expectations and unwanted surprises. It’s a given. How people respond to these things, however, runs the gambit.
When something bad happens, we can get mad, stay bitter, feel victimized, and give up. Or we can process it, work through the anger, refuse to stay bitter, and resist feeling victimized. These awful things could make us more determined and focused than ever. They could even help us find our purpose in life and discover a way to help other people. They could unleash waves of new creativity.
These rough patches could make us more determined than ever to live in a way that expresses love to people, reaches out to those on the fringes, speaks truth to power, takes bold risks, and does not worry about pleasing everyone.
In other words, the crazy and sometimes wicked things that sneak up on our blind side and hit us in the face could make us more like Jesus… and that is very surprising!
This post is part of the December Synchroblog, Jesus Came: Did We Get What We Wanted? Here is a list of the participants and their contributions.
Jeremy Myers – The Unexpected Gift From Jesus
Tammy Carter – Unstuck
Jeff Goins – The Day After Christmas: A Lament
Wendy McCaig – Unwanted Gifts: You Can Run But You Can Not Hide
Christine Sine – The Wait Is Over – What Did I Get?
Maria Kettleson Anderson – Following The Baby We Just Celebrated
Leah – Still Waiting For Redemption
Kathy Escobar – Pain Relief Not Pain Removal