Christmas comes at a beautiful time of the year when the pastel blue and pink-tinted sky is seen through a lacy network of bare black branches; when the sun picks out golden leaves hanging on winter-still trees.
Christmas comes at a difficult time of year when days are short and nights are long and cold; when storms bring too much rain and strong winds whip up the sea; a time when it is not good to be sleeping rough.
Christmas comes to friends in Oz with the promise of a beach holiday, of sea swimming and BBQs and incongruous Santa hats.
Christmas comes to Christ-followers in Asia who are persecuted for their faith – who fear imprisonment or abduction or even death on Christmas Day. They keep singing anyway.
Christmas comes with the weight of every Christmas past, layering memory upon memory until the expectation – or the dread – is unbearable.
Christmas brings into focus the secrets of your heart that are somehow easier to carry the rest of the year.
Christmas is a time of dread, of loneliness, of deep heart pain; of panic, exhaustion, and a sense of missing out on all the fun seen on TV.
Because Christmas comes with expectation.
Those blessed with happy family memories remember the exquisite impossibility of expectation – the Santa-sacks and reindeer food, the midnight carols, crackling wrapping paper and chocolate in bed – the secret, indescribable fulfilment of actually getting a longed-for gift. The explosion of gratification, satisfaction, FULFILMENT because someone (was it Father Christmas or mum or dad?) knew me well enough to grant my most secret, unspoken wish.
Then the years stack up and life gets hard. There's no mum or dad, no family to huddle with and eat and make merry. It's the lack rather than the abundance which stand out: the lack of a loving partner, the lack of cash to buy the presents the kids really want, the lack of a nice warm home, the lack of happy memories, the heart-pain of missing the kids who are with their 'other' parent, the heart-pain of not having kids, the heart-pain of missing those who have died; the commercialism, the emptiness, the pointlessness of it all – the deep, deep yearning for a sense of belonging. The lack of a Christ in Christmas.
Because Christmas makes sense if you focus all that longing and excitement and pain and loneliness onto a supernatural God who sent Jesus to rescue the world. Jesus who lived with us and simply loved us. Who loves us. Jesus who came to help us escape all this pain and evil, disease and death. Who helps us fight the daily battles of life in this beautiful, limping world. Jesus who knows the secrets of our hearts. Jesus who wants to surprise us with joy. Jesus who knows us well enough to grant our most secret, unspoken dreams. Jesus who heals the sick and raises the dead. Jesus who began life on earth just like we did – as a little baby crying in his mother's arms.