Whether you are dreaming of a white Christmas, waiting for Santa Claus complete with reindeer, hoping for the latest gadget among the gifts or just simply longing that the family will manage to get on this year, you will have a very unique personal idea of what makes an authentic Christmas.
Whatever outward trimmings, recipes and decorations create that authentic feel, they all point to our deepest longings for love, for community, for reconciliation, for peace. And while we may wish for the real thing, it often eludes us. That may be because we imagine an ideal that doesn’t really exist.
When we look closely at the stories telling us of the first Christmas we cannot help but be shocked by their harsh reality: brutal taxation, military occupation, refugees, emergency shelter and infanticide have more to do with the daily news than our idea of an ideal Christmas, and yet that’s exactly where we find Jesus.
In PR terms, His appearance could be considered a disaster, but He chose to be real with us and to engage with every aspect of our human reality. There was no perfect presentation, no VIP networking, no spin.
We will be celebrating Christmas with a meal and gifts and family, but this year, in pursuit of a more authentic Christmas I have made four resolutions to help me let go of my preconceived ideas. Instead, I will give myself permission:
Permission to be me
I will not pretend to have suddenly turned into Mary Poppins, Kirsty Allsop or Nigella Lawson, in order to provide a picture book Christmas. Instead, I will do the best I can and enjoy myself. I will not pretend that my life is perfect, and I will give others permission to be who they are and how they are.
Permission to be messy
I will not worry when things do not go according to plan; if our best crockery gets broken, if people are late, or relationships get messy or awkward. I will not expect that just because it’s Christmas we will all suddenly be a harmonious gathering. Instead, I will be open to others’ problems, tensions and brokenness and look for opportunities to share joy and laughter.
Permission to be interrupted
Just as Mary’s life was interrupted and the shepherds’ watch at night, I would like to be open to interruptions from God, for the things he wants to birth in my life, for where he wants me to go. I’m under no illusion that interruptions are not uncomfortable, beyond my control and often scary. But they are also life changing, life giving and beyond anything I could imagine.
Permission to be challenged
Famously there was no room at the inn and there still often isn’t; my schedule, my busy life, my priorities prevent me from noticing the proverbial knock on my door, my purse, my time. I hope I am not going to miss that moment when it is in my power to make a difference in somebody’s life or join in a costly project to change the lives of many.
So how about you, what will your authentic Christmas look like?