My living room, right now, is crammed full of boxes and shopping bags. It's not a large room and it looks even smaller right now. But soon, within four or five hours, there may be a decorated Christmas tree with twinkling lights, and a few presents wrapped and situated under the tree. Just to start with. I will have Christmas carols playing, and I might even get adventurous enough to tackle a baking project today. (It won't be dinner rolls, I can tell you that for sure).
It's bitter cold out today and we're all holed up in our little house, and none more so than Harry, our dog. He still has not recovered from his trip to the groomers and the shearing he underwent. He's nervous and skitzy, shaking himself constantly, running from room to room, and going out to pee constantly. My blonde mop of a dog is gone and in his place is this skinny thing that is acting neurotic and inconsolable.
When he's unsettled, I feel a bit more unsettled. So it will fall to me to speak soothingly to him, pet him a bit more softly and put some kisses on his forehead and keep telling him, "You're alright. You're okay. Really." I'm hoping he will believe me- even though he could be secretly seething with resentment for me having taken him to the place that was his undoing. But that's the sad thing. Dogs don't seethe with resentment. They bear the injustices quietly, their big eyes looking at you with a question of "How could you?"
He doesn't understand that this was a necessary thing. The clipping had to be done. The cleaning out of his ears, the shampooing and the brushing- it was all necessary. And then he would, of course, come home to me. He should know that by now- he always comes home to us. But he came home different than when he left. He came home troubled and fretful. And it's going to take him some days to get his old relaxed feeling, his equilibrium, back.
I completely understand that. Anytime I experience change- positive or negative- it takes me a bit to process what just happened. Just as I feel adept at coping with a situation, I get the news of something new that will affect me. It can be good news or bad news. I still have to adapt to the changes it will bring to my life.
If we go back to the subject of the apostle Paul's contentment with abundance as well as with times of lack, we see that the apostle really had a divine enablement in coping with not just these two extremes, but just coping with change, period.
For some people, going from Thanksgiving Day one day, and waking up the next day into the whoosh of full blown Christmas shopping, festive plans for merry making and holiday baking- it can be a little much to process. It's a change that can be a bit hard on the system- and that is not insulting the meaning of Christmas. It's simply explaining our human, physical reality.
I don't want to aim for perfection in setting the physical scene for Christmas. Because even if I decorate beautifully, the kids will throw the pillows on the floor, the dog will probably throw up on the couch, and I will bake something, at some point, and leave it too long in the oven. As the smoke fills the room and the smoke detector goes off, shrieking its outcry of judgment that I have burned something yet again, I will look around and survey the mess. I don't want to conclude, incorrectly, that I have failed to welcome Christ into our home, just because of the mess around me. I want to acknowledge my reality, but then I want to anticipate something more than what I see.
The original Christmas Day- the day of Christ's birth- did not contain detailed menu planning, shopping, decorating, Christmas tree decorating, dealing with relatives.... The scene, instead, was a hay encrusted manger, smelly animals, a woman in physical pain - giving birth, and then....wonder.
Wonder can be experienced, quite literally, in spite of the mess we're in. Or maybe it's precisely because we are in such a mess, that the wonder of God's miracle comes to us.