Why I Can’t Celebrate Christmas

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Honestly, I could end this post in a few lines.

Fire in Oakland.

Chapecoense football team. 

Genocide in Syria.

Bombings in Germany. 

Explosions in Mexico.

Attacks in Pakistan.

Post-election America. 

Add to this your own personal pains – the passing of loved ones, loss of opportunities, stresses of life – and they still wonder why you can’t deck the halls with boughs of holly or jingle all the way.

This Christmas has been a tough one. It’s been a month since my grandmother died and our family is deeply feeling the void. The political and humanitarian crises at large have sensitized me to the reality of life and only exacerbated this pain.

No. I can’t seem to find a way to celebrate Christmas. Not with everything’s that’s going on. It’s hard to join in on the rampant consumerism and the religious tribalism when you want closure and comfort.

So as a follower of Christ, I’m at a crossroads:

How do I reconcile the pains of the world with the birth of the Promised One?
How can I celebrate Christmas while I’m grieving?
How can I be real with the truth while being truthful to my reality?

I came across a story recently that has given me perspective. It’s found herebut let me summarize it for you: 

The story happens during the time Ahaz was the King of Judah. Ahaz is chilling while he gets news that Rezin and Pekah ( enemies of Judah ) have formed a coalition against Ahaz to subdue it. While homeboy Ahaz is depressed, God sends Isaiah, his prophet, to send a message to him. Isaiah is like, “ Bro, don’t sweat it. God’s going to take care of this.” Ahaz is still petrified. So God Himself engages Ahaz in a crucial conversation. Probably went something like this:

God: Bro, ask me a sign. Any sign. I’ll give it to you. Don’t worry about Rezin and Pekah.
Ahaz: Nah, Lord. I won’t ask a sign. It’s not that serious.
God: Bro why? You guys never learn. So let me give you a sign:

“Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”

Sounds familiar?

If you are, you may have seen this text footnoted in Matthew’s rendition of the birth narrative. Scholars are split on whether the prophecy in Isaiah is foretelling the birth of Jesus or some other baby named “Immanuel”, but given the contexts of Matthew, the rest of the gospels, and the mission of the Messiah, it wouldn’t be too much of a contextual leap to assume the former.

What am I trying to get at? Two things:

1.God’s solution to a maelstrom was not a strategy, but a Son.

God offers a Son as a solution for the political, religious, and emotional mess that Ahaz has gotten himself into. He places his Son right in the middle of pithy platitudes, vacuous promises, and manipulative ends to both break destructive systems and redeem them.

2.God is “God with us.”

Immanuel means “God with us.” The Son was, and is, the fullest expression of God who moved into our neighborhood, enfleshed in humanity. The Son is one who can relate to us in the darkest of nights, the brightest of days, and every day in between.

“God with us” is community. “God with us” is intimacy. “God with us” is solidarity.

Yes. It is a hard Christmas. But it was then just as it is now.
The story points out that Christ was born not in spite of the griefs of his world, but into it. He was born into a political mess, into a religious war, into an imminent, indiscriminate genocide of children, into suffering, into inconvenience, into pain.

This Christmas I take comfort knowing that He is not indifferent to my pain and yours, but intimately acquainted to it. He is in the middle of the maelstroms of my life as Savior, and beside me as Immanuel.

So I may not be able to celebrate Christmas. But I can celebrate Christ. And that’s enough for me right now.

How are you dealing with the Christmas blues? leave a comment below!

5 Ways To Share Your Beliefs Without Being a Jerk

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Right + Rude = Wrong.

Someone mentioned that to me and it has stuck ever since.

The counsel is timely, especially in circles where truth claims are criticized and those who express them, in extreme cases, are dismissed as anachronistic.

But is there a way to share your convictions without being snooty or insular? Here are 5 ways you can share your beliefs without being a jerk.

1.KNOW

It is significantly harder to share unless you know what you believe and why you believe it. The “what” deals with the content of your beliefs and the “why” deals with the justification for your beliefs.

I’ve realized that the more unclear I am in either of these, the more insensitive I could appear to someone else. Consequently, the clearer I am able to understand the “what” and the “why”, the better I can articulate myself to someone else and prevent avoidable misunderstandings.

2.LISTEN

Knowledge is irrelevant if I do not listen.

Listening is the process of building a bridge between your experience and theirs. When they feel heard, people are not only willing to hear what you say, but are also willing to offer you their trust.

Stories are sacred. So the fastest way to boost your jerk-o-meter is to dismiss their story because it contradicts with yours or to ignore it because what you’re going to share is more important.

Listen to their story. God forbid, you may even learn something new.

3.START

Picture a container of water.

The force of the water out of the container is largely dependent on the size of its exit and the water pressure. i.e the larger the exit, the less water pressure. The smaller the exit, more water pressure.

Depending on how the amount of pressure and the size of the exit is calibrated, the same container can be used as a reservoir for a calming shower or for a lethal water jet.

You and I are pressurized containers of information.

Only when I listen to someone else and start from where they are, I’d know how to calibrate what to say and when to say it.

Because the right thing said at the wrong time is the wrong thing said. What was meant to comfort can, instead, cut.

4.REALIZE

As you share, realize your role and God’s:

Your role is to share if needed. God’s role is to translate it as needed.
Your role is to prioritize the relationship. God’s role is to bless it.
Your role is to be a safe place. God’s role is to transform that space.

5.UNDERSTAND

Lastly, understand that God is bigger than your beliefs.

Humbling? Yes. But internalizing this has inspired me to delve deep into His presence while alleviating me from much avoidable heartache and stress resulting from “not sharing the truth.”

We are sharing truth whether we verbalize it or not. The posture of our hearts and the attitude of our minds do more to communicate what we believe than even our own words.

When you understand that God is bigger than your beliefs, you will also realize that His ways are higher than your ways ( Isaiah 55:9 ).

You will also feel liberated knowing that your effectiveness as a believer was never dependent on someone’s willingness to change their story.

Know, listen, start, realize, and understand. What else would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!