I am discontent with Christmas this year. I can’t seem to settle into the normal routine of decorating, shopping, baking, nesting, celebrating and it’s taken me a little time to figure out why. Normally I rejoice in this time of year. I love the lights, the festive feeling in the air, the chance to visit with friends and family but for some reason this year everything seems a bit harder, a bit more effort.
It could be that for the first time in a while, since my first son was born, in fact, I’m working part-time outside the home. This change in schedule presents its own set of challenges and I wondered if it was just the new sense of busyness that made me feel behind and less inclined to participate in the exuberance of the season. My kids are joyful, looking forward to presents and going to Grandma’s and Nana and Papa’s and they love the lights and the music and candy canes on the tree and my 2-year-old can’t get enough of saying “Jesus Baby” whenever he hears the name Jesus on a Christmas carol. So why is my joy less this year?
Well, I have to blame the Grade 11 Bible class I’m teaching. After a jaunt through what it means to be made in the image of God and how that impacts our worldview, we began to talk about environmental issues and if was after that unit was complete that my discontent began. It all started with our unit on Justice. After delving into our justice system and the biblical definition of justice we started talking about what justice and injustice look like in our world. These teenagers started talking about issues they had heard about such as human trafficking, child brides, persecution and many other issues that should not exist if we were all remembering what it means that every single person is made in God’s image. The teenagers are very passionate about these issues and though I had delved into these problems and begun to participate in awareness of different issues, I began to realize that the Bible mandates I don’t just worry and pray for people who are persecuted and abused and starving. I need to actively seek God’s justice in the world.
I am a visual person so at times in my life I have shied away from watching certain commercials about starving children and not read those news stories because I found them upsetting. I thought that meant that I cared about the issues so much that I couldn’t handle being faced with it because my heart was too soft. The opposite is true. How dare I look away to spare myself pain when other people live this pain every second of every day of their lives? If I’m going to try to emulate Jesus Christ, the one who took mercy on me, I need to have my heart broken but it needs to be broken in such a way that I can’t turn away, that I can’t be silent, I can’t forget or ignore.
So, my mission in the past month has been to break my heart. I read the articles online, I repost, I make myself informed about the persecution of others. I hate it. I hated watching the online video today that spoke of the tens of thousands of girl babies in India that are aborted or killed after birth because they are female. I hated watching a woman who said that her husband and his family starved and tortured her because she would not abort her beautiful twin girls. I hated knowing that the joy that greeted the arrival of my daughter is unheard of in so many families around the world. I hate having my heart broken but my broken heart is nothing compared to their experiential pain and the hopelessness of their reality.
It’s hard not to feel self-serving in my broken heartedness. It can feel virtuous knowing that I’m “becoming informed”. I cannot let my desire to appear virtuous override the intense need that other people have because then it becomes about me. Well, this should be a little about me. It should be about me striving to be more Christlike in how I view others. To be more of a servant, to seek God’s heart and care for what and who God cares for. So, in a way it is about me in that this is necessary for my spiritual development. Being like Christ means doing as he did, caring as he cared. It means giving my time, my resources, my thoughts, and my prayers to those who need, for those who suffer. It means changing myself so that I can be part of God’s desire to change the world.
So, how does this relate to Christmas? I think it began a few weeks ago when my husband asked me what I would like for Christmas. It made me grumpy. Not that he asked, because we both give each other ideas for gifts and love it that way. It made me grumpy because as much as I tried, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted. There were things that I would like to have, but there was a discontent in my soul at the thought of trying to muster up enthusiasm for another object, another item, that would make it on my want list. I decided that rather than get something I wanted, I should ask for something I needed. I needed to be changed, to be generous, to want not to need. So, I asked my husband to gift someone who had nothing. Because of the birth of our daughter this year, I asked him to buy a prenatal and childbirth care package for a woman in need in another part of the world. As a family, we also decided that we would sponsor a child for each one of our three children so they can have their hearts broken and reformed to a softer and gentler sort of humanity. It’s hard to wish for your child’s heart to be broken, but if the deep desire of our hearts is to see them become more like Jesus, then them having an intact heart is impossible.
In order to find peace this Christmas, the peace that the angels sang about when Jesus was born, I’m trying to be a person on whom God’s favour rests. (Luke 2:14) I’m trying to make connections in my mind and heart of my needs and wants compared with the needs and wants of those who are truly suffering. I think there is a little girl in India, maybe feeling unloved and unwanted, who could use our help to see that the God of the universe loves her more than she ever imagined and that somewhere across the world, there is a family that cares about her too.