At one of our recent online confirmation classes, the students were to follow instructions given by Pastor Judith to make a Christmas star ornament – using a couple of sheets of white paper, some glue, a ruler, and a pair of scissors.
This is what it was supposed to look like when I was finished:
Well, after an hour of hard work, this is what I came up with:
Not exactly what I had hoped for. At the time, even as the class was ending, I was tempted to keep at it, like the proverbial dog with a bone until I got it. But at the end, I had to accept and feel it, that it wasn’t going to work out for me, at that time.
In that class, there were about eight students. I guess I could take comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get it right. But about four in that zoom room held up a properly made and beautiful star! Some did get it! And I could see and feel their joy at that sense of accomplishment. Even though the end result wasn’t ideal for me, individually, as a class it succeeded.
This might not be the Christmas you had wanted and desired: Family gatherings not happening the way you had always envisioned; Church events and services just not the same; That pall of fear weighing heavily over your soul about COVID-19; The grief over all the deaths; The worry about the ongoing pandemic danger threatening us all. It just might not be working out for you this holiday.
That first Christmas was not what anyone expected. It was quite simple and bare bones, close to earth. Literally. The holy night was indeed silent. No large gatherings and noisy parties. No one decking the halls and filling their bellies.
And yet, somewhere, someone, experienced profound joy. Initially, just Mary, Joseph, the shepherds. And someone, somewhere, is experiencing the wonder of the season today in 2020. Somewhere, this year, children are having fun. Somewhere, someone is expecting their first child. Newborn babies bringing laughter to joy-filled homes. And yes, there are some whose hearts are filled with peace, gratitude and joy this Christmas.
Being a Christian is not being bound up in ourselves all the time. As Christians we don’t identify exclusively with our isolated selves. There is someone bigger, a greater love, that is part of us, the essential part of us, beyond our self-centred preoccupations. Following Jesus is never just about ‘me’, trapped inside myself. It’s difficult to get this, because we normally are totally identified with our own passing thoughts, feelings, and compulsive patterns of perception.
Rather than finding meaning in my own self, Christianity is about finding meaning in my relationship within the Body of Christ, the whole. How I connect with and identify within the community is where I find purpose for life in Christ.
Perhaps this Christmas, I need to be happy that some of the kids hit it out of the park with this star. Perhaps this Christmas, especially those of us who are struggling, need to rejoice that Christmas is still being celebrated and felt by others. And for some, there is inexplicable joy. Thanks be to God!
It may just start with one small act of kindness. It may just start with a generous act of love to surprise someone else with the unexpected from you.
And so, I can say: Have a Merry Christmas.