A Really Inconvenient Christmas Baby

December 20, 2010

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, the Christmas season for me can be kind of, for lack of a better word, sucky.

And not the delightful kind of sucky that Buddy the Elf discovered with the mailroom tubes on his face.  Just regular, plain old sucky.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  It’s just the month before Christmas that’s just sometimes a bit of a hassle.  I’m not trying to scrooge it up; sometimes it’s just overwhelming.

First of all, my little suburb is about the worst place to be during shopping season.  We have this enormous, throbbing, diseased tumor of stores and strip malls that’s growing on our main highway.  Dozens of stores stacked on top of stores, all crammed together in less than a square mile, with about 50,000 people there at any given time.  It’s awful.

Not to mention, although I like giving gifts, the task of simply figuring out what to give everyone is a lot of work.  I don’t like to give gift cards, because it feels like we’re just trading money.  Plus, I know I’ve got four or five unused gift cards sitting around myself.

Between two families, plus friends, my wife and I have a lot of Christmas obligations.  Plus, we like to throw a Christmas party.  There’s food to make and cards to mail, and gifts to wrap, and trees to kill, and sweaters to wear, and decorations to decorate and eggnog to drink and places to be.  It’s a lot of work.

And somewhere in there, I’m supposed to find the time for some solemn reflection on the real meaning of the holiday.  Which is nearly impossible.  I’m not sure why Jesus picked such a busy holiday to get born on in the first place.  Seriously, if Jesus had been born on any other holiday, it would be a lot easier to reflect on his radiant little baby face.  Christmas is just a really inopportune time for the Savior of mankind to want some attention.

An Inconvenient Baby

But I guess Jesus has been hassling people ever since the first Christmas.  Take Mary and Joseph.  They’re planning a wedding.  Mary probably wasn’t too much of a bridezilla, but planning a wedding is always a huge pain.  That’s reason number one to only get married once.  Then that whole spontaneous pregnancy happens.  And so all the hens in town are clucking about how Mary’s been messing around, and all the guys at Joseph’s carpentry shop are telling him she’s just trying to catch herself a baby daddy.  Then they have to leave town for the census…on a mule.  And Mary is super-preggers at this point.  And right when they arrive in a tiny town, away from any comforts of home, and no real place for them to bunk up, the Son of God shows up.

Hey everybody!

I just have to think that there couldn’t have been a worse time for Mary and Joseph for Jesus to pop out than that very night.  Couldn’t have waited until Boxing Day or New Year’s.  Had to be Christmas. 

That’s what Christmas is all about

And ever since then, right when we’re in the middle of everything, God’s been wanting our attention.  Not very considerate, I know.  It would be great if God could go outside and play so I can get some work done, and then we can go play catch.  But God’s never made it easy, has He?  He took the form of a baby that cried all through the night, making him impossible to ignore.  I don’t think Mary and Joseph were singing “Silent Night.”  I think Jesus cried his holy head off like any other kid.

You know, for all the flack we give our modern Christmas traditions, and as much work as it is to even carry on those traditions, maybe that’s the point of Christmas.  In the midst of chaos, God is there.  It’s not like my life is going to clear out next January.  It’s going to be just as busy.  And God’s going to want some attention, and He’s not going to want to wait until it’s convenient.  Because it’s never convenient.  It’s always easier to go our own way and ignore God. 

In the interest of one less thing to do this week for me (and you), and a little more time for reflection, I’ll be taking the rest of the week off from the blog.  I’ll see you a week from today.  I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and that you are near people you love, and do find time to embrace the miracle of Christmas.

What are you doing this Christmas?  Do you go all out, or do you keep it simple?  Tell us about the family gatherings, the shopping, everything you’re doing this week, and how you find the time to actually reflect on the meaning of the day.

33 responses to A Really Inconvenient Christmas Baby

  1. Please send all unused gift cards to Steve Taylor. :-) Merry Christmas, Matt. I’m going on retreat!

  2. //What are you doing this Christmas? Do you go all out, or do you keep it simple?//

    I think everyone tries to keep it simple, but it ends up being like what happened to Oedipus, you know, the more you try to avoid something that is what helps in the demise of the situation.

    Our traditions, if you will are still being established since we’re a young family of 4 years. My wife usually puts up those Angel Nativity sets (forgot the particular name) and the Christmas tree, and maybe a gingerbread candle.

    I did all my shopping this year online. I’d rather pay $5-$10 in shipping to avoid going out and dealing with people.

    This week is a 2 and 1/2 day work week for me. And I can’t wait for Wednesday noon. I actually enjoyed Sunday School yesterday because the leader asked a couple of questions about the meaning of Christmas and pretty much all of us in the class revealed that we get caught up in being busy and the focusing on just the “giving” aspect of the season.

    Jonathan Chang recently posted..246 Letting Goliath pick his weapons

  3. Well, for as much as we TRY to keep things simple, it’s like Sartre said: hell is other people. Namely, family.

    We have a tree up, and a nativity set on the fireplace mantle. As far as decorations and gifts go, WE (my wife and I) don’t go all out in the least: we always say we’ll get one another A gift (conveniently forgetting how many surprises can be stuffed into a stocking), and we’re going to get our 21-month-old one gift as well. Our hope is to instill in him that this is a time to give time more than a physical possession as a sign of love.

    Now, our families on the other hand…we (my wife and I) try to role model good stewardship of money by not going nuts and getting a bazillion gifts and good stewardship of time by not spending, say, two to three weeks decorating a house and then spend another one to two weeks afterwards taking it all down…

    I truly think that, for me, my attitude towards Christmas has progressed on the same continuum as the growth of my faith: in the beginning, I thought as a child, wanted like a child, and had to have a Griswold-level execution of my expression of it all like a child. Now? I understand the quiet. I understand the serenity. I get the phrase “bleak midwinter” and understand it for what it is.
    Sonny Lemmons recently posted..Hark- the Herald Humans Sing

  4. We have done some family events – dinner to benefit missions, annual trek to a 17th century museum, and a shopping trip for my little one to teach her about giving. Simple was a tree decorating party, keeping most of the shopping online (and to a minimum), and the finale with dinner at our place for family Christmas afternoon.

    I used to take the 2 weeks around Christmas off – but we have to take the week before or the week after at work, mine is after – so yeah, it can be sucky. By the time I get to enjoy Christmas it will be over.

    Mary was preggers and Joseph was not? – So politically incorrect, yet the truth. Merry Christmas, Matt.
    David recently posted..The C Word – And Why My Kid Doesnt Have Pink Mittens

  5. What are you doing this Christmas? Do you go all out, or do you keep it simple? Tell us about the family gatherings, the shopping, everything you’re doing this week, and how you find the time to actually reflect on the meaning of the day.

    I love Christmas and I don’t get bothered by the busyness or crowds; I defer my Christmas shopping throughout the year, starting with January sales immediately following Christmas. And I buy online – Amazon ships right to my door.

    My son’s birthday is at the start of all the hubbub too, so I’ve made it my practice to have Christmas stuff (baking, shopping, decorating) finished before I work in his cake and party. That tradition started when I was pregnant and the doctor wanted to induce me early – I told him I needed a few to finish up my Christmas stuff.

    So the 2 weeks preceding Christmas are reflective of Advent readings, culminating with a Christmas Eve service with my family and a meat fondue after, a tradition we’ve had for 33 years.

    We throw a New Year’s day open house; this is my favourite event. I don’t find it a lot of work – I think I’ve worked it down to a science and I am able to enjoy myself with my friends. It’s a great way to end the holiday season.

    Merry Christmas Matt! Looking forward to more conversation in the New Year.

    • New Year’s open house sounds fun. Our Christmas Eve dinner has always been the same simple thing my entire life – cheese and crackers with cocktail sausages and fruit. My Dad was a pastor, so we’d always have Christmas Eve service, and we’d get home and there was no time left to make dinner. We still do it this way though I’m an adult.

  6. Merry Christmas, dude. :)
    Jason recently posted..Preparing the soil

  7. Over the years we’ve managed to simplify Christmas more and more. My side of the family doesn’t exchange gifts–we agreed to stop when the financial stress was causing family members to not show up. We now have dinner together and have a Wii bowling tournament. So much fun and so relaxing. My husband’s side we only buy for his parents and our niece after agreeing to stop exchanging with the sister and brother in law. My daughter’s birthday is on the 22nd and I stress myself out trying to make sure her celebration is completely separate and just as exciting as her brother’s was in April. She doesn’t ask for much at all so honestly it’s me doing it out of my own issues than because she expects it. (I have 2 sisters with birthdays in December and my mom would grab one of the presents under the tree and say Happy Birthday–they HATED it and I always felt bad.)

    Even with all our simplification it still feels difficult to keep the true meaning of Christmas in our minds. But, like you said, it’s more of a year round issue–trying to keep God on top of the importance list.

  8. After years of trying, we’ve finally figured out a way to enjoy Christmas without going insane. Like Andrea, I finish my shopping early (usually by Thanksgiving), which takes a huge load off. We say yes to a few party invitations, keep the decorating under control, and I don’t do much baking any more–just one batch of spritz cookies for my dad.

    We sat down as a family and decided which traditions were the most important to each of us, then tossed the rest. What a relief! So yes, I actually do have time to contemplate God arriving as a crying baby, interrupting our lives.

    Great post, Matt. Enjoy your break and I’ll be looking forward to Monday.

  9. My wife and i keep it pretty simple, we didn’t go out on black friday till 11 am and I only bought 3 dvds. We got no lights, but we do have a tree and plenty of apple cider on hand. We go out and look at lights with our 5 month old. so right now, we aren’t crazy about stuff. But my guess is that as kids get older we might. Who knows – I could have an inflatable Santa in my front yard 11 months from now!
    jay sauser recently posted..…my 90s music monday…

  10. Merry Christmas! Christmas can get crazy!
    Nikole Hahn recently posted..Christmas Memories

  11. Just returned from the post office to which I had carried a gunny sack full of stuff to be mailed. As I slung the load into the vehicle, I muttered, to myself, I am so glad that Christ came to us to atone for our sins and live in us; but I sure wish Christmas had never been invented.

    Neither of us in this household can seem to pull ourselves out of the pit into which we’ve descended this Christmas season. No, we still love Jesus, and we know he loves us. But things right now are just ridiculous. Sucky, you said.

    Merry Christmas, Matt.
    vanilla recently posted..Christmas Party

  12. “Very sucky.”

    Interesting point, Matt. I can hardly see Mary and Joseph having a “restful” Christmas. This was a time of travel and trial for them. It was full of hardship, expectation, and stress. Immediately after the amazing birth of Jesus, they were forced to flee to protect his life, so this was also a time of fear. Christmas, it seems, came and went for them without much time to think or reflect.

    And come to think of it, Christmas is a lot like that for us, too. Maybe this year, our busyness and stress will draw us CLOSER to Jesus, instead of it driving us away from him. Maybe just as the “man of sorrows” was acquainted with suffering, he is also acquainted with the mundane stresses of everyday life. Maybe.

    What a wonderful savior.
    Jeff Goins recently posted..Spend Next Christmas in the Mission Field

  13. We do just enough so that it’s not boring, but not too much that it is an energy drain. Normally. So far, so good this Christmas. Hope you have a great one.
    seekingpastor recently posted..Avoiding Bad Christmas Plays

  14. Indeed, Christmas time tends to be busy no matter the family. Great reminder about God’s character, Matt.

    I think with family it’s great to go out shopping. However, Amazon is amazing to shop without crowds if you need to buy for a decent number of folks.
    Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..Ministry- Marriage- and Mistakes

  15. Merry Christmas, Matt. Would love to see your sweaters. Are they Christmas sweaters, per chance? Awesome.

    As for us, it’s “just” dinner for family. But it’s two solid weeks of cooking and cleaning and by the time Christmas is here, I’m exhausted. 90% of my shopping was online this year which helped. I agree Jesus could have picked a better day – Fourth of July when we’re not trying to push grocery carts through snowy parking lots. Now THAT’S sucky.
    Candy recently posted..‘Tis the season to rant

  16. Merry Christmas.
    This year will be my simplest Christmas ever. I cracked my toes just before Thanksgiving, and the tape came off yesterday. There is no way I will get 5 weeks of work done in 5 days. Gifts to elder family members are sent via internet, teenagers are getting cash, and friends and cousins have agreed to not exchange. Perfect. I’ll cook a ham and serve potato salad for the three of us, my hubs, uncle, and me, then dessert with my hubs’s cousins.
    Helen recently posted..Oh Christmas Tree

  17. We keep it very simple, but my in-laws make it a huge deal. We decided to give our children 1 gift around $20 on Christmas and a stocking with small items. Very quiet morning around the house, because we know it is gonna get CRAZY when we head to Grandparents house.

    I have not read all the other comments to see if this has been brought up already (sorry) but we purchase a small birthday cake from any local bakery and have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” breakfast while we open our gifts. The kids love cake for breakfast, it keeps them focused on Christ, and it is as much of a treat as the gifts!
    Lazarus recently posted..Please Stop Hatin!!!

  18. Well said!
    Merry Christmas to you

  19. This is our last year in the chaos. Starting next year we are using the gift money to get gifts to the third world nations.
    Jason recently posted..“Blue Like Jazz- Nonreligious Thoughts On Christian Spirituality” By Donald Miller

  20. Anyone that doesn’t like that movie can’t be friends with me. If there’s any gifts you don’t want you can send them to me. I’d be more than happy to take them off your hands
    Mike recently posted..A Festivus For The Restivus Happy Festivus Everyone

  21. For Christmas gifts this year my wife and I donated all the money we would normally spend to Blood : Water Mission… Everyone loved it, and it opened up opportunities to talk about the important parts of Christmas. (Plus it was super easy and stress-free)
    SethC recently posted..Steps

  22. One tradition I’d like to do away with is the fruitcake!

    Sometime in the last 2,000 years the Greek pagan influence got us to believing it was Jesus’ favorite birthday cake.

    (more on that at today’s post: http://wp.me/p1g2iA-15V )
    Lisa recently posted..Don’t Eat the Fruit… cake

  23. Well said, my friend. Merry Christmas.
    Paul recently posted..Journal- Born of a Virgin

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