Erick Erickson: Come As You Are
The perspectives and thoughts expressed in this op-ed are the exclusive purview of the author.
The holidays are messy. Families are messy. People are stressed and in perpetual pursuit of the recreated perfect memory that really was not but has become idealized. We do this to ourselves: debt, guilt, grief, depression, worry, frenzy, and then the lights go out, the trash packed away, and the tree comes down.
It does not have to be that way.
The first Christmas was a mess too. Shepherds were in the field and a group of angels scared the bejeezus out of them to declare the baby Jesus had arrived. “Fear not,” they said before opening into a heavenly chorus.
In Bethlehem, a husband and very pregnant wife found no room at an inn. The mother had to give birth in a food trough and then spent the next several months entertaining random strangers swinging by to see her child. Many of you do not want people in your house until everything is tidy, mopped and dusted. Poor Mary was in a manger, then somewhere else, but definitely not her own home.
In Jerusalem, a group of strangers from abroad showed up in a big entourage announcing the King of the Jews had been born. Herod thought that was what he was. He sent the wise men from far away off to find the baby and then an army after them to kill all the babies. Just as Pharaoh killed the Israelite babies before Moses led the people on an exodus, Herod killed the Jewish babies before Christ could lead us on our exodus to eternity.
It was noisy, messy, confused, bloody and glorious. Into the chaos of our world, God descended as a baby to be with us again. At creation, he walked among us. Then the fall happened, and everything turned upside-down. Now, into the upside-down world, the King of Kings came to make right the wrongs and put the world right-side-up again.
The world tells us the strong survive. Christ defends the weak. The proud boast and parade about. The meek inherit the Earth. The people wanted a deliverer and expected a warrior king. Instead, they got a baby in a manger who the world would turn against and kill.
But that baby born to die wound up living and offering life, even through death. Christ’s message is that if we put our trust in him, though we die in this world, we live eternally. If we lose, we win. To us, it is all upside-down. To Him, He puts the world right-side-up where worldly losing is eternal winning.
A lot of us are isolated and depressed in the holiday season. Mentally, people have been struggling these last few years. People are less prone to socialize with others. They instead stew in their worries and despair in their memories and isolation.
Love your neighbor. If you know of someone alone this holiday season, check in on them. Maybe invite them into your mess. Don’t clean up. Let them see you too live a messy life, not a perfectly curated social media life.
If you are the one reading this and struggling, talk to someone if you can. Be open. If you have no one to talk to, cry out to Jesus. Christians believe that he is not only real, but very much alive. The baby born in Bethlehem, executed in Jerusalem, conquered death that though we all die, we too will wind up very much alive.
Christmas should not be a complicated season, but we complicate the mess. The messiness, however, will one day be made clean. Right now, however, we can do our small part of merely doing as Christ commanded: loving our neighbors. This holiday season, the perfect gift just might be a smile and eye contact at some random person with an unknown burden who needs to see a friendly face.
Do not burden yourselves with a quest for perfection this Christmas. Unburden yourself. The greatest gift was given the first Christmas. You can’t match it. Stop trying. But you can give the gift of kindness to others. In our crazy, messy world, that gift matters.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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