Christmas for Real People


“Blessed is
The season which
Engages the whole
World in a
Conspiracy of love.”

 – Hamilton Wright Mabie –

I adore Christmas. I really do.

But I am also a girl becoming more and more an adult…and I’ve seen things this year that make me look at Christmas differently.

I’ve made decisions that have rippled their effects through my future.

I’ve stared into the eyes of a laughing girl–eyes that laugh to hide how deep the often-inflicted pain has scarred her.

I’ve held other hands and prayed for peace to come at last, after dark days and frightening nights.

I’ve known pain, especially the pain of others.

Becoming an adult, ever so slowly, means I can’t help but see Christmas differently.

But “differently” doesn’t mean that my love of Christmas is dimming. In fact…maybe I am just beginning to understand. I think I get it now.

Christmas is for real people.

Christmas is not made up of fake, perfectly-cast families that you see on the Hallmark Channel. Christmas is not flawless decorating. It is not smooth ornaments and trees without bare spots and everlastingly-cheerful radio music.

Christmas is made of real people. Chipped china and deformed gingerbread. An undercurrent of stress combined with the wonder. People who get tired and cranky and who don’t always get along. People who hurt and love and want to know if Christmas is really for people like them.

Just like we create false ideas of God in our minds, I think we create wrong ideas of the purpose of Christmas.

Christmas is not for the people who have no problems and gather together to celebrate flawless lives.

Christmas is the beginning of God’s expression of love, a response to all our outcries for help and deliverance. When the angels proclaimed Jesus’ birth to the nearby sheep herders, what did they say? “We bring you good news of incredible joy which will be for all nations.” (Luke 2:10-11, my paraphrase)

Good news–after centuries and centuries of waiting. At last, good news!

“Like cold water to a thirsty soul is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25)

So God spoke from the Far Country, bringing at last the refreshment, the consolation–both to Israel and, through them, to the world.

He didn’t bring Christmas to the King Herods entranced by their own power, to the religious right impressed with their own piety, to the well-satisfied in their own prosperity.

“The well [at least, those who think they’re well!] have no need for a doctor–the sick are the ones who need the doctor.” Jesus would one day say. “I come to call sinners, not the self-righteous. “(Mark 2:17, my paraphrase)

Christmas is for those who see the bare truth of their own powerlessness, sinfulness, and emptiness apart from a God who opens the way for redemption.

I’ll tell you the truth–I’m having to re-think Christmas in my own heart. I’m having to consciously remember that it is not  a holiday made for the perfect and put-together. It is a holy day because God came down to our level–pitiful and impoverished as we are– and made all days holy, because He is with us in them.

If you don’t feel up to celebrating Christmas…

If you feel too empty, too broken, too needy, too much like a refugee from the wounds of life…

If you don’t feel worthy, or capable…

If you think you have nothing to give…

Remember–this is why He came. He came for people like you, “to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.” (Isaiah 61:1-3, TLB)

He came for real people, giving real, satisfying love, and will eventually bring real wholeness to the entire earth.

My inadequacy, my scars, my falling-short–these are not barriers to celebrating Christmas. Since Jesus came, my barriers are now the very reasons I can rejoice in this season. Because Jesus came to bring healing and true joy at last. Because Jesus’s birth and life, death and rising, mean that this world’s suffering isn’t meaningless. Because this good news is for me, too.

I learned a lot about myself this year…and that changed the way I look at Christmas.

I think, maybe, I’m starting to understand.

“The more unworthy you feel yourself to be, the more evidence have you that nothing but unspeakable love could have led the Lord Jesus to save such a soul as yours. The more demerit you feel, the clearer is the display of the abounding love of God in having chosen you, and called you, and made you an heir of bliss.”

 – Charles Haddon Spurgeon –