Wednesday, December 21, 2005

blue christmas

curious servant said... I always feel a little blue this time of year. I shove it aside and work at being all that is right about Christmas for my children. But I feel a little blue.That is OK.

a friend of mine was recently confessing the same 'blueness' around the Christmas season. he has used it to fuel his cynicism, explaining that he sees more sadness amongst the people withwhom he works at this time of year than the rest of the year combined. i guess that, to some degree, i agree with him...

yet the agreement strengthens my faith, not my lack of it. it drives me to seek God's face in this time of well-intentioned emotional static.

in my view, if we place our greatest emotional stock in people and human relationships, then christmas can be pretty heavy. people are so good at letting themselves and everyone else down. family and friendly relationships that are supposed to be so close end up feeling -er- obligatory some years.

any breakdown in relationships seems to bare teeth at christmas because we gauge so many aspects of our life's success upon the expressions of our relationships at this time of year... heck, there are stories of soldiers laying down their guns at wartime to enjoy christmas dinner with the enemy, and we get thinking geez- what's that? i can't even think of what to write in a christmas card for a once-close- now casual- friend.

i won't blame satan. that's too easy. it's our problem. however, it's our problem because we leave our biggest spiritual and social buttons exposed during the christmas season and the minions just work the crowd, pushing them and bolting. we turn around and blame each other for our sense of emptiness, rather than open ourselves to the comfort and joy of God as expressed through others, whether strangers or brothers, who suffer the same calamity.

as we place greater stock in our relationship with almighty God through the expressions of goodwill that characterize people's response to the birth of his son (whether intentionally or simply out of tradition) there is the reminder that, with all of its failings, humankind has not been abandoned. the theology of immanuel: God with us is evidenced by the fact that, amidst all that is wrong, there are still glimmers of what is right in every selfless act.

as long as the glimmer exists, there is immanuel- there is hope.

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Blogger curious servant said...

Donald Miller shares the idea in "Searching For God Knows What" that we are wired for a relationship with God and since that is screwed up we seek our identity in each other.

We place higher personal stock in those close to us, and when they fail us, it costs us more.

We are all so needy. And we need more than we give (generally). So there is an inherent imbalance in human relationships.

Of course there is an infinite source of affirmation through God, but our selfishness shoves Him aside and so we feel the lack.

But I think there is another reason people feel blue during Christmas. It is such a big emotional investment. There is such a build up of expectations for ourselves, for others, for a sense of peace and love and belonging, that we set ourselves up. The length alone creates huge expectations. From Thanksgiving through New Years i a very long time.

So when we are hurt during this extended season, especially by the loss of someone close, the memory of that loss taints the future seasons as well.

I cannot think of getting a Christmas tree without remembering the first tree I got for one of my children... on the morning he died.

So many people experience a Christmas when someone close is suddenly not there that it leaves reminders for years to come.

We are simple yet complex creatures. We are not ruled by our minds. We are ruled by our desires, our hearts, our animal natures, our selfishness...

It is in setting ourselves aside that we are elevated. It is in being a servant to others that we are exalted. The greatest servant of all time was the incarnation of God who made Himself nothing so that He could love all.

What an amazing thought! A being of pure love who wanted to share that with others so much that He permitted His own creation to spit on Him, to beat Him, to torture Him, to murder Him.

It is a bluish Christmas because humanity has an empty spot.

As loong as we stare at that empty spot we will feel empty. But when we turn away from ourselves, we are filled.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

dude- nicely put:
"We are simple yet complex creatures. We are not ruled by our minds. We are ruled by our desires, our hearts, our animal natures, our selfishness...

It is in setting ourselves aside that we are elevated. It is in being a servant to others that we are exalted. The greatest servant of all time was the incarnation of God who made Himself nothing so that He could love all..."

it seems that to be created in the image of God is to be capable of experiencing the same paradoxes that God is capable of orchestrating and being glorified through: we are simple, yet complex; we are ruled by other things (nietzsche said 'drive is a tyrant') yet believe that somehow we with our great big brains are in charge.

the fact that we are permitted to join in the glory of almighty God simply by setting ourselves aside is a perfect picture of how God desires something higher for us than simple dominion- and how he works through paradox in order to see it realized. i think that the greatest God-honouring quality of paradox is the way it challenges us to bump out of the land of reasons and into the land of faith- epitomizing the truth that our faith is his reason... that a free and unbroken relationship with us is God's greatest desire of all.

don miller's idea (haven't read that one yet... it's on my 'to read' pile. his other two volumes are life-changing because they challenge our perspective first) idea that we seek identity in others is also echoed in john eldredge's 'wild at heart' where the author speaks of 'the wound' and how we take it to other counterfeits rather than to God.

that blaise pascal spoke of a God-shaped void suggests that it is a pretty common problem, but also that we who acknowledge it are in good company.

Blogger curious servant said...

Gee whiz you write swell!

I also like the way you think. Say, there's a Starbucks around the corner, (pick a corner!) carry to meet me there? I'll buy you a cup of Joe.

Rereading the dialogue so far I see we're half way to having a post!

I see you are a pastor. Is this season emotionally draining for you? I would think that with the increased needs we have been discussing there would be a lot more demands on you.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

starbucks makes a mean gingerbread latte these days. i'll indulge in one and receive it from you, man- feel free to do the same in your corner of the world with your favorite starbucks magic.

thanks for the gift!

as for emotional drainage, school is harder than church. it has been my experience thus far that God meant it when he said that we would never be given more than we could deal with through his power for his glory. in sri lanka...

(after almost four months, my journals are almost completely posted and can be found at

... this past summer, we were greeted with all sorts of eastern-world surprises that, by God's grace, we were able to sort through. things that would freak us out in our nice little western middle-class churches on a sunday morning were just part of the colour of my friends' daily spiritual experience in colombo and batticaloa... pretty incredible.

most of our problems have to do with our affluence, very few of theirs had to do with their lack of it. isn't that interesting?

anyway, i am just really excited about celebrating Jesus' birthday with my friends and family.

blessings to you and yours.

a side note- if you think to pray in this regard, i would appreciate prayer this afternoon (about 12:00 your time, i think- God can sort out the timezone stuff) as i have been asked to lead in some 'christmas carol singing'.

in my view, anytime i sing in public it is worship leading- that's where the songs come from- and i am praying that God would be celebrated and hearts would be drawn to him even as we sing silliness like rudolph and santa songs.

i cleared it with my school administration and 'joy to the world' is in. i guess we are still permitted some 'immanuel' in these increasingly politically correct times.

by the way... to anyone else reading these comments (convinced or unconvinced, believing or disbelieving, theist or atheist, christian or achristian): how do you feel about this? i'm interested.

Blogger curious servant said...

Thanks for the filling in of the details. I'll try to take a peek at those journals over the next week.

I kept thinking about what you and I shared above and I turned it into a post.

It's great to have an avenue to express oneself. I love blogs. It gives me opportunity and a reason to write.

Merry Christmas JB!

Blogger Shawn said...

It's funny, I expected to be blue this Christmas as it is my first without my wife around but it was actually pretty good. The kids and I went and got a real christmas tree (our first) and we went to town decorating, singing songs and generally having a pretty good time. Makes me hopeful the future will be even brighter.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

for some scripture taken out of context, but somehow kinda sorta relating to your journey, go to colossians 3.1-2

there's a message of hope there, i think.

blessings, papillon

Blogger curious servant said...

hope all is well with you and yours.


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