In the midst of Christmas, I confess that I am much more stressed out about this holiday than I should be. Feelin’ a little crazy. On the one hand, I keep telling myself that my three year old–despite her excitement about lighting Advent candles, her newfound love of three Christmas songs I have heard eight thousand times in a month, and her desperate attempts to help with the wrapping–doesn’t really know how this Christmas thing works. She doesn’t know how many presents Santa should bring. She is not disturbed that the outdoor Christmas lights didn’t get up until the 22nd and don’t even work. She is still mostly free of the cultural constructs that make this season one of stress for many, including, apparently myself. How beautiful.
As I reflect on my own stress, stemming from my own shoulds, my own standards, my own expectations for a holiday, I notice that the stress comes from the places that are divorced from my lived experienced of, shall we say, the reason for the season. Theologically, I love Christmas. The miracle of the incarnation of God’s love among us, literally among us, is the source, the basis, the foundation of my discipleship of this mysterious and loving God that I seek all year long. And yet, somehow, in the middle of that mystery, of lighting the candles, of reliving salvation history in the lectionary, in the middle of just trying to spend time with those who make it to town but once a year, it is so easy for all of that to slip away and be replaced by wrapping and baking and decorating and memory making as ways to show love. Those are some ways, but if this is all about the incarnation, how am I really called to love this season? And not just this season but throughout the year?
Mary sang of God’s love through the child she was carrying. She sang of the poor lifted up and the rulers overthrown and the hungry filled. Joseph encountered God’s vision in a dream, made some crazy choices to support his wife-to-be and then runs off to live as a refugee in Egypt for years just to protect his new family. Zechariah is made silent only, spending months listening more than talking, rejecting tradition to make his child one of God’s own. The three kings/magi/philosophers/whatever-you-call-them experience the love of a God they do not know, and allow their wisdom to change their plans.
The love of this season is a crazy love. A breaks-down-barriers, frees-the-oppressed, hit-the-road-jack, go-ahead-have-that-baby-in-a-barn kind of love that I can barely conceive of. When I look around at the way I am shaken when I have to change my plans, when I just don’t know how to possibly express my gratitude to those I love cause a gift just can’t be enough, when I can’t read one more story about the suffering in the world, I realize that this season is a chance for me to feed on that love. To realize that they way the world tells me to love is going to look nothing like the way God empowers me to love. To see that that opportunities to share that love have nothing to do with the calendar and everything to do with my relationship to God. To look towards those hardest to love in my life, and focus my energy there… even when I fall into that category. This crazy love challenges me to not be burdened by the suffering of the world but to be challenged to rise up full of God’s greater love to make a difference.
I can only love all, as God calls me to love, when I reflect on the real true kind of live that this season is about. May we all be a little crazy this season, not with the to-do lists and events, not with the expectations and family drama, not with needing to meet expectations. Let us be crazy with a divine, incarnate love that changes the world.
Abby King-Kaiser is the CFJ staff person who works in ecumenical and multi-faith ministry. She often looks a little crazy, between trying to keep up with the fabulous students she works with, the too-smart-for-her-own-good three-year-old at home, and, well, because she is really, really pregnant right now. She is looking forward to a new kind of crazy when she welcomes her second child to the world sometime in January.