Smashing Snowglobes

As far as I know there is only one way to have a perfect Christmas. Every expectation has to be jammed together into a space so small that it cannot sustain human life, drowned, and encased in glass. We call these places snowglobes. They are pretty, quaint, and while sometimes expensive they hold no real value other than to demonstrate to guests your distain for dusting.

In a snowglobe you can have a church service on Christmas Eve, go carolling, live in a warm cottage, and drink apple cider beside a perfectly decorated tree that guards an unholy amount of colourfully wrapped presents. Sometimes there is enough room for a well behaved family sitting down for a lovely turkey dinner.

What there isn’t room for is imperfection.

Nobody in a snowglobe is too busy. I’ve never seen one that contains a mall stuffed with anxious, bewildered husbands or screaming toddlers. Its styrofoam snowflakes never settle gently upon the collars of the homeless and estranged.

How nice, for those who live in a tempered glass bubble.

Somebody give me a hammer.

You can also purchase snowglobes that contain little baby Jesus. They are sublime. They don’t smell like manure, contain despots who murder infants, or have poor blue-collar families becoming refugees. Sometimes you can wind them up and they’ll sing a lullaby to a porcelain child who doesn’t breathe or cry. Look inside and you’ll find that the Virgin Mary found childbirth to be an inspirational event and Joseph – tasked with providing for his family – wasn’t at all embarrassed to tuck the newborn into a feeding trough.

On the other hand, for me the actual Christmas Story is filled with wonder precisely because it stinks. It fills me with hope that God might look down from heaven trying to find some way to connect with his children, see nothing but a manger filled with poverty and desperation, and say,”Perfect. I’m on my way.”

One of Jesus’ nicknames was Emmanuel, which means “God With Us.” No fragile glass barrier separating the holy from the common, or the sacred from the profane. Just a God who will go to lengths we can’t begin to comprehend in order to save us from ourselves.

My prayer is that Jesus will show himself to you this Christmas even if (especially if?) you have very little room for him, and what isn’t cluttered has a peculiar, barn-like odour.

And should you prefer the snowglobe version, I’ll try to be there for you when life gets clumsy.

 

The Christmas Tree

IMG_0867

The Audacious Emmanuel

A Seraphim sits in the heavens, breathes on a drop of water and weaves the resulting crystal into a solitary snowflake. It falls to the ground like a mother kissing her sleeping child; gently, softly, silently.

Road salt turns it from angelic art into a grime that wiper blades smudge away. A work truck drives through the slush, rocks and sand pitting its windshield. A pleasant little “Bing” warns that an important fluid is almost gone. Feeling a bit harried and beat up, the driver listens to the news on the radio. He is running near empty too, tired and burdened.

From a distance the Earth is beautiful. Up close, sometimes not so much. What gives us hope is the fact that this is the same planet with the same issues that it has always been, and that it is into all this that a child was born, and they called him Emmanuel.

God With Us.

The audacity should shock us. The gods that we make in our own image are incapable of this measure of chutzpah. They remain far off, regal, indifferent at best, condescending.

What they never do is see with love, listen with compassion…or come closer.

None of us live in a snow-globe version of life, though at times it appears that the raw ingredients are there: gently falling snow, couples walking hand in hand, carollers bundled up on the front steps of a church. Look a little closer though, and things begin to unravel:

One or two of the carollers think that freezing their buns off is better than being cooped up with family.

That couple walking together down the lane? They’re wondering how to plan a funeral during the Christmas season.

That lovely snow? It’s trying to find shelter down the frayed collar of a homeless man.

And into it all comes Emmanuel, the newborn infant laid in a feeding trough, his virgin mother wrapping him tight against the cold. That’s where the magic happens, friends: the place where everything around us screams that we are unwanted and deserted, and a gentle hand comes in to calm our fears, wrapping us up snug and tight in linens of hope.

If you fall in love with Christmas, let it be because of the story of the Humble God who wasn’t afraid to get His hands dirty. Jesus didn’t come to buy shares in Hallmark- he came to bleed.

When uncertainties come in like a killing frost, when you find yourself whispering, “This Christmas, I just hope I’m not alone…”, look at Jesus again, and hear Heaven whisper…

…“Hope granted.”

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12 NASB