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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

December 25, 2009

All the preparations are over and Christmas arrives in just a few hours. Family and loved ones will gather for a meal and gift exchange. For many, Christmas can be a clash of two worlds. Images of a serenely intimate gathering of friends and loved ones fill the airways with tunes of bubbly carols while the television and print media conjure up idealized gatherings where comfort and joy fill the soul of every cheerful person. Yet, many will find these gatherings an ordeal to endure. The pain of family is real and few want to deal with the sting of bitter memories of Christmas past or fear of the potential explosion of emotions in Christmas present. While our faith and commercial messages make family visits on Christmas day a social obligation, we still have a tug in our reluctant hearts to avoid the potential for pain that these gatherings may bring. The best gatherings are those in which family members decide to enact clearly enforced boundaries for behavior, length of visit, and clear roles for participating in family customs. These expectations can salvage a gathering where others recklessly step over boundaries at will and cause undesirable conflict. Maneuvering well the power imbalance and family dynamics can help a person find the peace and joy that Christ brings to this world.

As we venture forth into our families, we can see the very reason why Christ was born for us. The turbulence of our family chaos is reason enough. We cannot save ourselves from ourselves. Only Christ can make sense of our family dysfunction. Our families reveal our neediness. We are a broken people who are made in the image of God’s glory. We do the things we do not want to do; we find loneliness and rejection in the places where we want and expect the most comfort and understanding; we let our true selves be revealed most clearly among the safety of our family and sometimes we do not like what we see. Yes, this is why Christ came for us – to be among us , especially in our brokenness.

John’s beautiful Gospel prologue is proclaimed today. While it is the most transcendent of the Gospel narratives, its words are plainly honest: God would come to be among us as a human and we will reject him. God desires so much to be with us that he will suffer and love just the way that we suffer and love. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. It is in the face of Jesus that we will see God’s face. When we contemplate what God has done for us through Jesus, we begin to feel the grace upon grace that is available to every single one of us. Every time we gather with friends and family, we are reminded of how much we need the grace of God. We cannot save ourselves. Only God’s grace upon grace can make sense of the peculiarities of our world. The wonder of the season does not just belong to children; it belongs to us who deal with the beauty amidst the heartache of these gatherings. The wonder is in knowing that Christ has chosen to be born into our families and wants to come to our gatherings. It is here that he reveals to us God’s glory.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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