Not Happy at Christmas

Most weeks I do a blog post on “stuff I like” on Thursdays, but a post from my old blog popped up in my Facebook today and I’m sharing it again with some edits instead.

Are you ready for Christmas?  I’m ready for it to be over.  So many of my friends have expressed exhaustion and anxiety over the holidays, and then further distress they’re doing something wrong for not feeling happy about “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Reasons vary, ranging from stress over keeping up with it all, to depression from a tragic loss or losses in 2017.

And yet we all walk around convinced this is the season to be happy. This, out of all the times of the year, is the one time we must smile and feel good about others, the human race, and the world in general. Everything should be just as cheerful as a golden retriever puppy playing in the snow, a small child swinging on a swing, or a Star Wars trailer. If it isn’t, there are some of us who feel we are “doing it wrong.”

I’m no theologian, but it seems the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity did not take on human nature so that we’d have to smile incessantly and pretend to be overly cheerful for the four (or more) weeks preceding His birthday.  The Incarnation did not occur because we were all smiling and happy people; quite the opposite.

Do you know how far we manage to make it into the Word of God before we run into sin, suffering, and death?  Three chapters.  It is in the third chapter we have the fall, the consequences, and the promise of salvation.  I don’t think the Word made Flesh would forget this.

The pages are not filled with people drinking pumpkin spice lattes, putting up decorations, buying each other gifts, and spreading good cheer.  Time and time again, the people faced sadness, suffering, sin, and chaos.  God continued to work everything up to that moment in time when His Son would come, promising His arrival through the prophets.  The faithful were full of hope at this promise, but this faith didn’t remove their suffering.

And then when Jesus does arrive, it is not to matching warm flannel pajamas, perfect hot chocolate, and freshly baked cookies in a perfectly clean house full of clean laundry and smiling children.  He does pick up some amazing gifts, but I’m not sure they were as practical as a warm blanket at the time.  I think we should be thankful the annoying kid with the drum isn’t actually Biblical.

His life was not full of sunshine and roses.  There was work to do.  There were illnesses.  People got sick and died.  And at the end, He died the most horrifying death known in the Roman Empire.  Jesus is not unfamiliar with suffering.  He is not unfamiliar with your suffering.

Two years at Christmas Eve Mass, my family sat in the front row of my sister’s beautiful church.  The entire place was gorgeous and festive.  Everything about the building was happy.  And for some reason, they had to go and sing I’ll be home for Christmas.  I can’t even link to it without crying, so I won’t.  My mom loved that song.  And so we were in the front row, just sobbing.  I cried, my sister cried, I think my dad may have cried.  ALL THE CRYING.  And then they played it again at the end!  Snot.  Everywhere.  That’s no happy Mass, people.  Did we do it wrong?  Was Jesus displeased with our emotional outpouring of grief?  Was He annoyed we cried on His birthday?  Of course not, that’s ridiculous.  He was right there with us, quite literally in fact, at Communion time.  And that brings me joy.

We can have faith, hope, and love without actually feeling happy.  They are supernatural virtues; overwhelming cheer is not.  Jesus can give us joy without turning us into happy mindless robots.  There is a time for weeping, and this may be yours.  Jesus wept too, so it must be okay.  If this is your time, then let it be your time, and don’t stress over all the bells and whistles you’re not playing with.  It may be time to be nice to others, but you can be nice to yourself as well.

I wish everyone joy and hope this holiday season, regardless of how you are feeling at the end of 2017.  I also wish you happy moments with family and friends, because they are nice, even if those moments are not necessary in the eternal plan.  And Star Wars.  I wish you all the Star Wars.

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