The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light….For unto us a Child is born….” (Isaiah 9:2, 6)
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….” This time of year, even in California, we picture snow-covered lanes, filled up Christmas stockings, piles of presents under the tree, and smiling families around the fire. Then there are the idyllic Christmas cards – the lowly shepherds gathering peacefully around a newborn baby wrapped in clean blankets, cradled by Mary with Joseph beside her. Cattle are lowing, as angelic visitors play their harps overhead. I confess that I love these images because there is a truth conveyed by them of God’s peace and love. But the reality of that first Christmas was, most likely, much different. Childbirth was dangerous and painful; shepherds were smelly, and stables unsanitary. Christmas is untidy – though it’s not often reflected in our glowing cards and letters. Here’s an extreme example, a “perfectly delightful Christmas note.” See how quickly you can guess the “author”.
This perfectly delightful Christmas note is being sent on paper I made myself to tell you what I have been up to. Since it snowed last night, I got up early and made a sled with old barn wood and a glue gun. I hand-painted it in gold leaf, got out my loom, and made a blanket in peach and mauve. Then, to make the sled complete, I made a white horse to pull it from DNA that I just had sitting around in my craft room.
By then, it was time to start making the place mats and napkins for my 20 breakfast guests. I'm serving the old standard twelve-course breakfast, but before I moved the table into the dining room, I decided to add just a touch of the holidays. So, I repainted the room in pinks and stenciled gold stars on the ceiling. Then, while the homemade bread was rising, I took antique candle molds and made the dishes (exactly the same shade of pink) to use for breakfast.
Well, I must run. I need to finish the buttonholes on the dress I'm wearing for breakfast. I'll get out the sled and drive this note to the post office as soon as the glue dries on the envelope I'll be making. Hope my breakfast guests don't stay too long. I have 40,000 cranberries to string with bay leaves before my speaking engagement at noon. It's a good thing.
Your Friend, Martha Stewart
We laugh at this fictitious letter because we know that our non-fictional lives are not “perfectly delightful” but a delightful mess! School can be a chore, work can be a bore, health problems a pain; and there are days when we wonder if anyone cares. If the ideal Christmas doesn’t seem to jive with your reality, remember that Christ’s birth was not set against a fictitious backdrop of tranquility and peace, but of chaos and conflict. His world was one in which there was oppression, inequality, prejudice, extreme poverty, and spiritual ignorance. Sound familiar? This is why he came, to bring his redeeming light to a darkened world; and to bear the sin and brokenness of this world on the cross. As we enter this Advent Season, I want to invite you to join that swelling chorus of worshipers who know that their lives are not an ideal Christmas card scene – who know that Jesus was born to redeem those who lives are imperfect and undelightful, and to transform them into agents of his healing grace in a hurting world.