Recognizing Realities

Advent Week 2: Preparing the Way, Dec 10, 2013
Read Isaiah 40:6-7

One disservice that our culture does for us at Christmas time is to make us think and feel — even when we know better — that everyone (except in our family) is having a “perfect Christmas.”  Homes are perfectly decorated, food is plentiful and artfully arranged, peace and contentment reign as everyone gathers around the piano to sing carols — or listens to carols. Everyone else (except in our family) selects the perfect gifts for others, stays within their budget, and receives the perfect gifts.  No one (except in our family) ever drinks too much, spends too much, talks too loud, or is generally and genuinely obnoxious.

We all know better — so why do we try to measure up to such an illusion? Why do we carry the illusion that we can be perfect?

Last week we noted that Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph all recognized the angel.  But they also recognized the realities of human lives and relationships.  People continue to feel loss and grief and pain at Christmas.  Problems and hard decisions do not disappear just because we try to cover them with lights and tinsel.  People we love and long to be close to may still be unable to give or accept forgiveness.  Empty chairs at the table remind us of loved ones who have died and sometimes we think and feel “If only…”

Meditation: When God comes into my world, he comes into my pain — intentionally and lovingly. God does not expect me to put my difficulties aside and have a “perfect Christmas.” God invites me into God’s redemptive suffering, which is the real meaning of the incarnation.

Examine the list you made yesterday.
(a list of 10-20 things that you do or are responsible for during the Christmas season)

  1. Put an asterisk * beside each item that represents something you think your family or friends expect from you.
  2. Put a double asterisk ** beside each item that represent extra time and work for you.
  3. Put a minus sign beside each item on your list that you do not enjoy and make a note of why you do not enjoy it. Or state the conditions that would enable you to enjoy it, such as more time or more help.

About Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith has 20 years’ experience in technical writing and management in software companies. She also has more than 20 years in Christian ministry as an educator, course designer, retreat leader, spiritual director, pastor, and coach. A United Methodist Deacon, Smith has her M.Div. from Boston University. She is a graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance, and is certified in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leadership from Boston College.
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