The Christmas advertisements relentlessly suggest that Christmas is one long Kodak moment. Or would be, if only we bought [fill in the blank].
The reality, of course, is different.
“Life is pain, Highness,” says The Princess Bride’s Man in Black. “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
The real Christmas recognizes that. It isn’t about celebrating our perfect lives. The Christmas story centers, after all, around a single mom, a teenager, whose pregnancy certainly broke her parents’ hearts, and who was so poor she had her baby in a barn. She lived in an occupied country, and her baby’s birth resulted in the murder of a whole village-full of little boys.
Many of us are mourning our own losses and brokenness, and the losses and brokenness of the world around us. But that’s no reason not to celebrate Christmas. In fact, that’s the perfect situation in which to celebrate Christmas. In the midst of brokenness we can look forward to a time of justice and right relationships, when the poor won’t be oppressed, leaders won’t be corrupt, hearts won’t be broken, and death will be no more.
The words of the haunting and beautiful hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, date to the 12th century, but its heart-cry goes back 29 centuries to the themes of the great Jewish prophets of the 8th century B.C.
O come, O come, Emmanuel!
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.