Every year, I silently wish that the holidays will be “normal.” What this actually means is probably something like “sanitary” and “idealized.” I want us all to be present and happy, I want smiling faces and gentle conversations. And maybe even a little peace on earth thrown in for good measure.
These days, a normal Christmas means that we miss Dad and we make jokes about shaking our presents in his memory. In our normal Christmases, it’s hard for me not to look around and feel twinges of regret about the lack of Mike’s parents in our lives. Normal holidays mean we are both happy and sad at the same time, making new memories and cherishing the old ones.
But maybe that’s not such a bad thing, because that is where we live our lives, joy and sorrow and the full range of emotions in between. Our holidays should reflect that fullness, and to sanitize them, even though it is so tempting, is to miss out on a big part of our real lives. Even more than that, what we celebrate is that that is where Jesus came to live, too, in the midst of our lives that are messy in both good and bad ways.
I was looking over some of my book reviews for this year, and I came across the review I wrote of Anne Rice’s latest book on the life of Jesus. I can hardly believe that was this same year, but it appears that it was. I was struck again by the words that I quoted in that post, the words that Jesus used in the book to describe why he lives his life in the world rather than in the Temple.
“It’s where I live, my lord,” I said. “Not in the Temple, but in the world. And in the world, I learn what the world is and what the world will teach, and I am of the world. The world’s made of wood and stone and iron, and I work in it. No, not in the Temple. In the world. And I study Torah; and I pray with the assembly; and on the feasts I go to Jerusalem to stand before the Lord–in the Temple–but this is in the world, all this. In the world. And when it is time for me to do what the Lord has sent me to do in this world, this world which belongs to Him, this world of wood and stone and iron and grass and air, He will reveal it to me. And what this carpenter shall yet build in this world on that day, the Lord knows, and the Lord shall reveal it.”
My grandma is in the hospital, and the world seems very messy and sad. I would prefer for my family to be healthy and happy at Christmas, but as I sat with her this evening, I was comforted by the idea that this is the world Jesus came for, that he chose to live among the broken rather than some safe and sanitized version of life.