Sometimes I get a 'whisper' that comes fully formed and way too complex for my little mind to have conceived. This is what I heard the other day...
Right now, so many folks feel Out of Sorts. Our 'Christmas Time' has become a tradition of pleasures: favourite foods, desserts, treats and drinks. We spend time and effort decorating, making our homes look festive and colourful. We anticipate being surrounded by family and visiting friends: being connected with those we love. We play games, go skating, skiing, tobogganing; enjoying our free time, going wherever we want and doing whatever we want.
Right now...that has all been turned upside down.
But, if we REALLY want to consider the Christmas story...THIS is far more like what happened in Bethlehem. Like Joseph, we have been given a decree. We have had to leave our work. Who we are is so very much tied up in WHAT we do. The social media of the day would have been the Jewish people talking along the road, grumbling and mumbling about how the government had affected their lives. Joseph and Mary were not yet married. I can not see anyone in his family believing that girl was carrying the Messiah... "Yeah, Right!" Instead of being surrounded by loving family in the upper room, they are segregated and have to settle in the stall. They are literally, and relationally, separated from family by a wall, and separated from friends by decree as each went to their designated town.
There were no special decorations, colourful lights, or special food. No fancy clothes, or joyous songs. No gifts to exchange. Just exhaustion, pain, and uncertainty as to what their incredible lives held for them in the future.
And THAT is the Christmas we have been missing!
Like Mary, our lives are in a very pregnant pause. Up to this point, our self-image, habits, social structure and belief systems have been well established. Our 'normal' has been set. This is all about to change THE MINUTE that Christ comes into our lives! And, why did He come? Jesus came as a SACRIFICE for Us All. Sacrifice: it is a word we rarely, if ever, hear at Christmas time. If anything, we do the opposite and splurge! We celebrate as a time of excess!
But this year... that's all different. The sacrifices of 2020 have been felt in so many sectors of our lives. This year, Christmas is filled with lost dreams, lost income, lost relationships, lost futures. The Jewish people had lived in uncertainty for centuries as slaves in Egypt. At several points in their exodus, they cried out to return to their known lives... for life to return to a sense of 'normal'. What would happen NEXT for them in this desert?! Their security: food, clothing, employment, housing, and belief systems had all been left behind... in the past. And we can not go back to the 'way things were'. It is a time of grief, loss, anger, and fear. And YET...THIS is the sort of circumstance in which God works MIRACLES!
This Christmas, our homes are still. There is quiet and solitude, and an omnipresent sense of the unknown. It would be easy to fill this gap with dread and anxiety; to fight within ourselves and cause damage worse than any virus. We could fill the gap with alcohol, to try to drown the sorrows... but once sober we find that unease is still there. Or we could try to fill the gap in our lives with the distractions of Netflix or Social Media... but hours later, we will find ourselves sitting in the same place we began... and utterly stuck.
Or, we could just STOP and LISTEN to what God may say to us, here in the quiet stillness of this Christmas. The shepherds did. These were men who had begun training from boyhood for their job as a shepherd. Their 'normal' was well established in the care of their sheep. Yet, they dropped everything to run towards Jesus. They dumped their 'normal'. Everything changed for them that night. And it can for us too.