I was thinking last week, walking quiet and heavy under the burden of the kindness of others, that it seems God breaks me every Christmas. He breaks my heart, my will, my pride, and when I start to think that, yes, here I am standing on these two feet, I find myself broken again.
Christmas seems like the wrong time to be broken, like an unfair time. Break me in summer and sunshine, maybe, or at Halloween– yes, what would be wrong with a little breaking at Halloween, if breaking must come, so that I have time to build up again in time for Joy! and Mirth! and Celebration! at Christmas. Christmas isn’t supposed to be hard.
So we tell ourselves, remembering perhaps with misty softness some childhood magic before life became so rocky and grown-up and responsible and sometimes just flat-out horrible. Or perhaps we let ourselves be drawn into the message the commercials sing loud and brazen: buy your happiness here! and we rush and overspend and panic to purchase or create the perfect Christmas for ourselves and our children and then, when the toys we thought so important lie broken an hour after the ribbon is untied, we crash down and think of how unfair it is that Christmas should be so hard.
We are deceived.
For Christmas, whatever we think it should be or do, serves as a magnifying glass for the hurts and insecurities and griefs and shames and inequities in our lives. Whether we compare our Christmas to some romantic half-truth memory, or the Christmas our neighbors are having, or the lies the stores sell us all wrapped up in pretty paper, we find our Christmases never match up. And we feel that sting, and cry out– where is my peace on earth?
Perhaps we compare our Christmas to the wrong Christmas. Perhaps instead of looking around us, we should look back– back– two thousand years back to that barn and that baby. You want an imperfect Christmas? Behold the young unwed mother; the long, miserable journey; the inn with no room; the manger.
Why did He come that way? Why did He come in such a tiny, broken way, instead of like the Mighty God Jehovah that He was?
He came because we are broken. He came to meet us, here, in our lowliness, our fallen shame, our griefs and sorrows, our broken hearts and our pain and our desperate needy brokenness. And He came with peace and goodwill, but we look under the tree or in our wallet or in that empty chair at our dinner table to find it instead of looking to Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows!
In the middle of our brokenness, He finds us, and when we sit alone in sorrow or put on a show of cheer for our children or spend another sleepless night in worry and pain, He is there. And He is the God of all comfort.
And He is with us, not in spite of our brokenness, but because of it. For it.
He whose coming we celebrate at Christmas came in brokenness, and carried our brokenness to His tree, and bears it for us and with us and is always, always here– our Emmanuel– always and forever when we look for Him.
And so if you, like me, face a Christmas this year with a shadow overhead– big or small– or more than one shadow– be it loneliness, illness, financial distress, disappointment, discouragement, loss, grief– will you remember with me that He came for you, for this very Christmas, this very imperfect, broken holiday? And will you let Him be your Prince of Peace?
He has come. He abides with us. He is the answer for this broken Christmas.