This Christmas is going to be thin for us, gift-wise. My husband’s been out of work for a while, and like much of the country we’re making do with less. Far less.
Admittedly, there are worse things in life than being deprived of participating in a consumer frenzy. But it’s not easy, this business of disappointment. The thought keeps coming to mind: It shouldn’t be like this.
I argue with myself, Why not? Who says how it “should” be?
The truth is, we’re not starving. We’re not living in a war zone or dying of a preventable disease. We have a place to live and indoor plumbing and electricity. In material terms we’re far closer to prosperity than millions of people in the world. Yet the thought creeps back: It shouldn’t be like this.
I try to wrestle my thoughts into a more spiritual direction. I remind myself God has given us grace in abundance (1 Timothy 1:14) and love beyond measure. But at the moment that’s unsatisfying; at the moment, what I want is the way things used to be. The generosity I’m craving is of a different sort.
I sigh and shake off my stubborn materialism by doing practical things. I retrieve the box containing our crèche from the closet, and help the children set it up. I wryly note to myself that each figure is perfectly poised for humble worship. That carefully carved Joseph and those pious shepherds aren’t having any trouble praising God. Well sure, I grumble to myself, but they’re not alive. In real life—in this life—no one’s perfect.
And then, finally, I relax. For it dawns on me that the refrain running through my head—It shouldn’t be like this—is precisely why Christ came to earth. This life isn’t the whole story. A better life awaits us. If our lives here were perfectly comfortable and all our desires were met, we wouldn’t look beyond ourselves. We wouldn’t look to the state of our souls. And we certainly wouldn’t look to Jesus, who entered an imperfect world so that we could be made perfect.
And so I wish you a blessed Christmas. A frugal one, perhaps, or a lonely one, or a sorrowful one. It shouldn’t be like this. And yet, Jesus knows that. And he’s done something about it.