The “sub-themes” for the meditation guides for the rest of Christmastide are “Going Home Another Way” and “Protecting the Newborn Christ” (or “Nurturing the Gift”). Together they make up the overall emphasis of “Nurturing Your Gift in a Strange Land.” Matthew 2 and Mark 4 are the basis for many of the meditations.
Christmas December 29
Read Nehemiah 8:10c, Luke 2:10, and 14
I am definitely experiencing the “post-Christmas letdown” this year, feeling buried in snow almost daily since Thanksgiving, and buried with clutter in my apartment, and not wanting to do anything but read and sleep (except that three times a week I am in an exercise class).
The day after Christmas it is common to feel physically very tired, even if Christmas Day was lovely with family and friends, genuine love and concern, and much help with preparations and cleanup for a festive meal. There may be feelings of relief, especially if family relationships are painful.
The reality for many people is a more serious post-Christmas letdown because — as the meditation guides for Week 2 discussed — we set unrealistic expectations both for ourselves and others. Certainly some of this letdown is an inevitable price exacted by the extra work spent to enable family and friends to join together in a special day. Such fatigue is something to accept and perhaps to plan for next year by scheduling post-Christmas rest and relaxation. But for now we face the work of taking down decorations, finding places to put new gifts, and paying credit card bills if we did not stick to a “pay-as you-go” policy.
But there is a parallel reality to the spiritual meaning of Christmas: what should I expect after I receive the gift of the marvelous joy announced to the shepherds by the heavenly host? Shouldn’t my life be peaceful and trouble-free if I can truly accept all of God’s gifts described in the meditation guides for Week 4?
The Outpouring of Joy
In the fullness of time,
the joy of the Eternal God
was let loose in the world,
with the promise that this joy
come to all people!
The reason for this outpouring of joy
was and is
that the One Almighty God,
Holy and Awesome,
is pleased with…
is gracious toward…
takes delight in…
all human beings —
even you and me. (–NRS)
What if I have not yet experienced a joy of this kind? If my life doesn’t become peaceful and trouble-free, what have I done wrong? How have I sinned?
God comes to me in the “fullness of time” as determined by God. Just because it’s Christmas or Easter or some other special time by a human calendar, does not obligate God to make me “feel good.” The reality of all of God’s message — given through creation, through my own existence, through Christ, and through all the expressions of God’s Creative Energy (God’s Word) — is that God loves and accepts me, that God’s favor rests upon me, and that God finds delight and joy in me!!
But accepting that message through faith does not guarantee us an emotionally high experience. The angel chorus does not remain to inspire and entertain us through our daily lives. And it is not the nature of our walk with God to remain on the mountaintop. In fact, any mountaintop experience is an expression of God’s grace, not a right for us to demand.
“Mountaintop moments” usually lead down to a valley and to a journey of wilderness wanderings in a strange land. This will be the focus of our meditations from now through January 6.
Meditate on your own post-Christmas feelings: good, happy, joyful, emotionally drained, depressed? Take them to God — and remember the promises of God.