Going outside/
Shoveling snow in the driveway, driveway/
Taking our shoes/
Riding a sled down the hillside, hillside

Compared to the rest of our year, our holiday season has been oddly uneventful.  It seems like our little family is in a peaceful bubble (so unlike the rest of our lives) serenely floating along through our Christmas season, buying and wrapping gifts, putting up our full and fragrant Christmas tree, letting our cats prance among the wrapping paper trimmings.  The monstrous winter storms haven’t adversely affected us, we’ve just ventured out in our little white Accord to slip around with everyone else, only getting really stuck twice – and once of those times in our own driveway.  We’ve had to change our Christmas plans, but not due to our own problems and we’re lucky to have family only six or seven minutes away to alternately visit today.

Can you say what you want?/
Can you say what you want to be?/
Can you be what you want?/
Can you be what you want?

It seems like everyone but us is having a really crappy Christmas season.  We have friends and family who have had cars break down, crap out, blow out, and completely die.  There have been announcements of cancer, sudden deaths, health crises, and even children dying.  We’ve heard about people whose pipes have burst, our friends with paint peeling off the walls from snow melting and leaking into their apartment, my father up on the roof with his 60+ years on the icy tiles trying to find the source of a leak from the massive piles of snow on their roof.  My sister refusing to help unless paid.  Families have been fighting over who has to go where without hurt feelings.  Unforeseen medical bills popping up in the mail, people getting robbed, accidents all over the freeway.

Our father yells/
Throwing gifts in the wood stove, wood stove/
My sister runs away/
Taking her books to the schoolyard, schoolyard

There have only been two exceedingly horrendous Christmases in my memory.  When we were younger, before my grandfather passed away, we would go open all the presents from our grandparents with all the cousins on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house.  It was always a grand mess of paper, contained in an orderly opening of gifts as directed by my grandmother.  Everyone usually got the exact same number of presents (my grandma raised five kids, she weren’t no fool) and there was generally a aura of peace and goodwill among the family.  This particular year, my family was driving an aerostar van, and one of my parents managed to slam my elbow in the sliding door as we were packing up to go home among the glittering drifts of snow.  I, of course, screamed bloody massacre, and we – instead of going home – went straight to the Emergency room.  Hours later, we emerged in the wee small hours of Christ’s birthday with my arm in a sling and my younger siblings sleeping in the back seats.

The second of these memories was only a few years ago – the last year I was in college.  Christmas morning we woke up to an unheavenly aroma in the house.  The smell of rot, putrescence and human waste – not the usual smell of sausages, cinnamon rolls, and coffee.  The Lord, in His humor, had chosen His birthday to have our septic tank overflow.  We couldn’t use our own house’s toilets and had to hold it until my mom could convince the neighbor to let us run down the street to relieve ourselves.  Right after breakfast and before we were even allowed to unburden our stockings, my father forced us all the bundle up and trek down to the back corner of our lot to dig up the septic tank for the septic pump men to come pump out the tank in the morning.  We were all so grumpy that presents weren’t even mentioned until 4 in the afternoon/evening – nearly unheard of by my family’s standards.

In time the snow will rise/
In time the snow will rise/
In time the Lord will rise/
In time the Lord will rise

I’m sure everyone has similar stories – maybe not about broken arms and septic tanks, but similar griefs and horror stories surrounding one of the most holy nights of the year.  If you think about it, just because most people have more peace and patience during this thirdish week of December doesn’t mean tragedy stops or Murphy’s Law fails to come into effect.  Oftentimes it seems these occurrences are exaggerated travesties against us simply because of the season.  This time is so joyful that it feels as though the entirety of life should fall in with exactly how we view the holiday should proceed.  And when it doesn’t, how much more affronted we feel.  I’m sure Mary and Joseph felt the exact same way.  Not that they celebrated Christmas, but that Christ’s birth should come just when things were so very impractical.  Having to take a long journey, and not having a proper place to birth – you’ve heard it many a time, I’m sure.  But the loveliest part of the Christmas story, is that no matter how many things seem to go wrong, no matter what we feel shouldn’t be happening – in the story Christ is still born.  And still reached out to us.  We can hurt, rail against circumstance, be insulted as much as we please, but this doesn’t change the fact that God still became man for us.  So no matter what happens during your Christmas season, I wish you the very best of holidays and ask you to remember not to focus on what went wrong, but what was so right all those years ago, no matter what you believe. Whether you believe that Jesus is God, or that this is simply a season of more happiness and cheer, the world was still changed.  Forever.  Merry Christmas.

Silent night/
Holy night/
Silent night/
Nothing feels right

~ Lyrics from “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever” by Sufjan Stevens