It’s Christmas, the time when humblebrags move from Facebook into the double-sided, full-color Christmas letter. (Bonus points if it’s in Comic Sans.) Full of news about graduations and babies and promotions and trips to Nepal, these letters carefully glide past middling disappointments and secret heartaches to present a cheery, curated look back at the year.
The senders mean well. Some of them are people I love dearly, and I don’t begrudge them their good news. But this year I could do with some honesty on my holiday card. What ours will probably say: “Merry Christmas from the Johnsons, with love and hope for a great new year.” What I wish it could say: “This year we had to call the police about ex-wife-related issues six times including once to get her boyfriend off our front porch, Miles missed 24 days of school (and counting!) due to stomach issues, Jen successfully ended several projects without successfully replacing them so our income dropped by $18,000, we renovated all three bedrooms and spent most of the year stepping over drywall, the upstairs plumbing dripped through the dining room ceiling in two places, one of our cars died to the death, we got 68 damn inches of snow in three months, and while you see a picture of my stepdaughter on this card, we have not seen her since June 17 because her mother is in contempt of the custody order and refuses to bring her to our house.”
We might not have any friends left by January 1, but it would be somewhat cathartic.
Despite all our efforts to sanitize it and sentimentalize it, Christmas begs for honesty. You’ve got an unmarried pregnant girl, a bewildered dude who was going to marry her and now has an unplanned tax bill and a stepson to raise, an aging aunt who’s now (somewhat embarrassingly) pregnant, an uncle who’s (somewhat embarrassingly) mute, and a final act that includes the girl giving birth in a cave with the help of a man who, until this special bloody and scream-filled and TMI moment, had barely touched her. As my favorite songwriter, Andrew Peterson, says, it was not a silent night. Oh, and then a bunch of social outcast shepherds showed up, and a bit later there were some death threats.
Somehow every year we turn this into a candlelight service anyway, because who wants to think of the messy emotions and messy stable floor that accompanied the real thing? Well, except God. This scenario is, after all, exactly what he either planned or allowed (I think some of each), which tells you something about his priorities, which we also don’t like to think about, because if Mary’s comfort and Joseph’s happiness weren’t top on his list that means ours probably isn’t either.
So this year I’m giving myself the gift of being honest, if not on all of our Christmas cards, then with you dear readers, and saying this year stunk more than my living room after the dog eats dairy, and if I were God I’d be throwing justice and sunshine and $20 bills and that boyfriend around like crazy, and that if we get six more feet of snow this winter you might see me on an episode of Snapped. AND: I’m also remembering that I know a God who was not shaken or shocked by what happened in our little lives this year, and that he is still Emmanuel amidst the drywall and the Lysol, and that times like these are actually when he does his best work, if the Bible’s stories are to be believed. So as we Advent together I will invite him once again to work in me, even if my life does not look like a pastel-tinted greeting card. Although we will probably get those in the mail to you this week.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Seattleye