Monday, December 24, 2012

My Unkown Christmas

This is my first Christmas away from my nuclear family. 

The past two years, Michael and I have gone to SC for Christmas to be with my mom and siblings. This year, we decided to spend Thanksgiving with them and come to NJ for Christmas. That means that the comfort of familiarity-- the anticipation and expectation of "Christmas" as I've always known it-- is absent. I don't know what the Christmas Eve service tonight will bring. I don't know what the celebratory meal tomorrow will taste like. I'll be new to this family's way of opening presents. Do we all take turns? Is it a free for all? What happens afterward? Christmas-- the event that has become meaningful in American culture simply because it's overflowing with the comfort of familiarity and tradition-- is an unknown to me this year.

Last year, I remember really struggling with my Christmas experience. I was home, and I clung tightly to my expectations of what it should be like. "Things have always been this way-- we've never done that before-- I remember it always being like this..." My commitment to my own expectations over and against anything else resulted in frustration and depression. My hope was in my idea of how things "should be" rather than in the God-who-is in the midst of how things are. 

This year, practicing the season of Advent has invited me (and challenged me!) to let go of my own expectations about what is to come. It has reminded me that life on my own-- even my most perfect "idea" of what it should be-- is dark and broken apart from God. It has reminded me that the whole point of Christmas is that God interrupted our expectations, and in doing so, brought salvation. He entered our world in the most shocking of ways-- by entering into our very humanity-- in order to rescue it. 

Practicing Advent as a spiritual discipline has invited me to recognize that I am in fact better off when I let go of my own expectations and expect instead only God and His redemptive entry into my life. It has helped me to see Mary's response to God's redemptive (and unexpected, surprising, terrifying!) entrance into her own life-- "Let it be to me according to Your word" (Luke 1:38) as the call to me as well-- to accept the good that comes from God's hand, whether I expect, envision, or even agree with it or not. 

In doing so, I'm surprised to admit that this unknown Christmas has not been stressful. In remaining open to whatever God has for me in each moment, I've been able to enjoy what has come, rather than be bitter about what hasn't. And in letting go of "Christmas" as I know it-- the comfort of familiarity-- I've been reminded in a new way of "Christmas" as it really is-- God's surprising, unexpected entry into my world, and the rescue He brings. 

That, after all, is pretty comforting.


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