It’s a challenging time – in part because IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. Not just a temporary ceasefire on the conflict that punctuates normal family life, but a whole sleighload of relentless, frenzied, all-ages frivolity.
On the list of stressful life events, Christmas can be up there with moving home and getting married. At this time of year, men are inundated with ideas for What Women Want. But despite being presented as the epitome of feminine desire, seaweed wraps, celebrity fragrances and even handbags leave me cold. I’d rather have something useful – like a power drill. Or a blowtorch. The fact that both can be used as weapons is entirely incidental.
This identity crisis is worsened by the relentless outpouring of saccharine films, songs and novelty gifts which reinforce the absence of, or deficiencies in, even our most loving relationships. If I see one more Meg Ryan film that ends with her wrapped around an adoring beau in Holywood snow, I may end up pulling out my eyeballs and feeding them to her with a spoon. It’s not her fault, it’s mine. My relationships are not like hers. I love Glen dearly, but if he initiated a tickle fight, I’d sink my teeth into his neck, (and not in a romantic way). Our cute arguments rarely end in a simultaneous outpouring of mutual admiration. And when it snows, I don’t twinkle like a frosted cupcake. My nose and mascara runs and I smell of wet dog.
I suspect my antipathy towards romcoms exposes more about me than it does about them. I want to be that ditsy loveable girl with the cute boyfriend, dream job and cats that don’t break into the bread bin. I feel like my life doesn’t measure up – and never will. And my fears about Christmas are just as revealing. Yes, I know it’s all about Jesus. But my heart, my diary and my cheque book say something else. My heart races over a discounted stocking filling, instead of God becoming man. I’m stressed about mince pies and turkey and snow – I don’t have time to sit at the Lord’s feet. And those familiar carols and verses too often merge with the Iceland jingles, mere background noise in the flurry of shopping and present wrapping.
I really want to honour the Lord, but I’m not sure how. How do I stop His good gifts – food and family and friends and holidays, from becoming my ultimate desires? Do I ramp up the guilt and make my own atonement for neglecting Him? Or am I being too hard on myself? I’m going to church on Christmas Day – that’s enough, isn’t it? What more does God want from me?
These questions help diagnose some of the issues in my heart. I feel like God is just another voice on a long list of demands, none of which can be met to everyone’s satisfaction. He just wants to take from me when there’s nothing in the tank. Or he’s a distant relative, who can only be appeased with a card and a book token.
But He’s neither of these caricatures. He’s the Almighty God who made Himself into a tiny, helpless baby – and He won’t be limited or categorised or boxed-up or dismissed. He’s the God who gives – not takes. Who cares about us so much that He came to live and think and breathe and suffer and die – for us. That’s not a distant relative. That’s a Father, scooping up his beloved child. And as I’m reminded of who He is, I’m reminded of who I am. Not always the cherubic toddler holding her daddy’s hand. Sometimes, an overtired, fractious, demanding infant who just needs to rest in her Father’s arms.
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