Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Not So Perfect Christmas.

What is our picture of Christmas?
For many of us it looks like this ?

Or this?

Or perhaps this?

For most of us Christmas look like family gathered around a perfectly decorated house, kids happily opening presents, and smiling families gathered around a big table filled with food.
In many ways this ideal of Christmas is what we all strive for.
It is why we work so hard in the days leading up to Christmas to make sure that we have bought the perfect gift, cooked the perfect meal, and decorated appropriately.
This often leads us to feel really stressed.
In fact we often don’t feel the wonder and beauty of Christmas because we are too busy making the perfect Christmas.
We are trying to live up to the ideal in our head.
But often times Christmas brings with it not so good times.
Sometimes we are so stressed about making everything perfect that we end up not simply enjoying being together, or sharing gifts.

I know that I have many great memories of Christmas.
However, I have some not good memories too.
This week we put up the tree in our house.
We had a wonderful time.
But Vicki and I were talking about how when we were kids we didn’t remember that time as being really great.
For example, my parents would fight as they put up the tree.
Because of this, we have a rule in our house that you are not allowed to fight as you put up the tree.
The cost of perfection is sometimes that it stresses us out to the point where we no longer enjoy the moment we are living in.

I know that other people are going to be struggling this year.
They might be in a nursing home for the first time and feel depressed that they can’t have the ideal Christmas.
Some families are experiencing great financial stress at this time of year and can’t provide the ideal Christmas we all have in our head.
I know that other people are mourning the death of a loved one and feeling not so merry, but sad that the person will not be here to fill out that ideal picture.
One of my friends wrote on her Facebook page, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to catch a break!!”
Sometimes life just feels that way, and it can feel even worse at Christmas because life is not measuring up to our perfect picture.
Because perfection is so hard we end up feeling likes failures when we don’t get there.

I say this because our witness to the world is not about the perfect Christmas.
Being a person of faith does not guarantee that your Christmas will be perfect like this picture.
As Christians we are not promising anyone the joys of spending holidays with friends and family, or the blessing of gathering around the table to eat at great feast.
Our witness is about the light.
It is the same witness that John the Baptist has for us in our Gospel lesson this morning.
The light comes into the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.
We are not the light, our families are not the light, the perfect Christmas is not the light.
No we testify to the light that is more secure than all these things.
We testify to the true light that shines in our darkest days.

Our proclamation is about the one who comes to take away the sting of death, the one who comes to take away the sins of the world.
The John the Baptists from this morning’s Gospel is much different than the one we met last week.
In Mark’s Gospel John is a prophet in the tradition of Elijah, John comes to tell us to repent.
In John’s Gospel John is the one who testifies, who proclaims that Jesus is coming, that the light is shining.
John prepares the highway by proclaiming the thing that we all need.
And what we need is Jesus to come into our imperfect life.
We don’t need perfection, because it only brings stress.
Perfection is never a good thing.
Instead we should embrace our darkness; because it is there that Christ will shine the brightest.
Our proclamation to the world is this truth that into the darkness Christ comes to shine light.
And that we all have darkness.

Our proclamation is an important one.
Because it helps us overcome the picture of perfect.
It allows us to live in our imperfection.
This is why our Sunday school is such an important part of our ministry here at Concordia.
We get to proclaim to the next generation the truth of Christ coming.
I know that the teachers take this task very seriously.
They see it as part of our responsibility to keep the promises we made at the baptism of our children.
The Congregation promises to proclaim Christ as they grow in their faith.
As one person wrote on our giving tree, “(Teaching Sunday School) Gives me the opportunity to touch the lives of children and let them know that God loves them. And hopefully prepare them to lead others to Christ.”
Proclamation begins here among and with us.
We must proclaim to each other that Christ comes in our darkness.

John came proclaiming Christ not to strangers but his own people.
John came proclaiming the light in the darkest of hours for the people of Israel.
Just like Isaiah before him.
John was telling an expecting people that God had not forgotten the promises God made long ago.
It is important for us as a community to proclaim that same truth to one another.

Visiting people who are sick reminds them that you care and have not forgotten them.
Being with people when they have lost someone they love gives them human contact when they need it the most.
Walking with someone as they struggle to overcome problems they face gives hope.
We can be the light to others.
We can be the light that God sends to proclaim light in the dark times.
But just like just like John we also must proclaim that we are not the one who people are looking for.
We are not prophets.
We are not Elijah.
We are not the messiah.
We are imperfect people simply proclaiming that in Jesus others will find what they are searching for in their lives.

This message hit home with me this week.
I was in the middle of preparing my sermon this week.
In the middle of writing it I got a call from my sister that my mom had been diagnosed with cancer.
It was a wakeup call from God that I don’t only preach these things to you, but I live them with you too.
I need this advent season to be about more than the picture of perfection.
It is not perfect;
It is lousy in so many ways.
I need it to be about Jesus Christ and the light he spreads into my life.
I need it to be about how Jesus comes and heals an imperfect world, saves us from death and sickness, and sheds light even on the darkest of times.

I hope that this year your Christmas is not perfect, but rather it is filled with the light that only comes from Jesus Christ.

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