[December Synchroblog] Jesus came, did you get what you expected?

Jesus came, did you get what you expected?

I pray that the answer is no.

I realize how strange that sounds. When I wished my friends and family Merry Christmas, I truly meant it. I wished for each one a season of peace and enjoyment and that each would experience life-altering moments of kindness and love. I wished everyone could be a part of a gathering in which they felt a sense of belonging. I hoped that each of us could offer that to others as well, especially those with no place to go. I wished that everyone would feel noticed and known through the gift giving, and that each one would feel as though they matter.

I confess I love the beauty and ribbons and lights and music and anticipation of it all. It’s all too easy to get caught up into the commercialism and sentimentality that has taken over the holiday season and that causes so many of us to rack up big bills and stress in order to make it all happen. Let’s be honest, that stuff is just as alive in the Christian world as it is in the secular. But sentimentality is a cheapened version of true celebration. It tells a lie that what our hearts most desire can truly be found here, through our money and our parties.

Therefore, even though I truly wished you all Merry Christmas, I hope you were blessed enough to leave the holiday unsatisfied. I hope you all enjoyed a lovely holiday as did my family and I, and, I pray that none of us would be satisfied with so little ever again.

My prayer is that the Christian church would have to courage to begin to grow up. May we become less afraid of the mystery, the great paradox of our Christian lives which is the reality of the already/not yet. Christ has come and shown us the way of His Kingdom. Alleluia. However, Christian celebration on this side of heaven must always carry with it a morsel of grief. That is why three of our Advent candles are purple, the color of penitence and suffering. We must outgrow the Jesus who, as my pastor says, is too often viewed as our “bearded girlfriend who wants to be our lifecoach.” We must outgrow our “religious narcissism”. May we dare to follow God to places far outside of ourselves.

Those who walk in the footsteps of Emmanuel may not forget that the world aches in pain, oppression and need. We ache because even though we enjoyed a feast day with all the trimmings, many of our children in West Africa passed away from hunger. We are troubled because though we are free, too many of us are still in chains through sex trafficking, dictatorships or the selfishness of others. We ache because we do not yet know how to die enough to our own fears and greed to allow Kingdom to be birthed fully alive and full term everywhere.

If we lose our sense of ache, of longing for something better, we lose who we truly are. We are made for something, Someone, far better than what the pretty, sentimental holidays can ever provide. And, we are meant to begin to realize that truth in context of community. Theologian Miroslav Volf says that when we “receive” Christ, we receive all who come with Him. We cannot fully know and bring Kingdom without those whom we have left behind.

May the awe that we feel at the coming of God Incarnate jar our hearts awake to this exquisite longing. May this Holy Discontent drive us to the Story to live as deeply liturgical people, people who live with rejoicing and ache, all while figuring out a bit more of what it might mean to love God and love others. And if you have been fully satisfied and your life is near perfect, may you be blessed enough for God to come in and mess it up enough so that you are not left behind in slumber. Amen.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:

to find the lost, to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
(Quaker Blessing)

Enjoy the Synchrobloggers:

Glenn Hager – Underwear For Christmas

Jeremy Myers – The Unexpected Gift From Jesus

Tammy Carter  – Unstuck

Jeff Goins – The Day After Christmas: A Lament

Wendy McCaig – Unwanted Gifts: You Can Run But You Can Not Hide

Christine Sine – The Wait Is Over – What Did I Get?

Maria Kettleson Anderson – Following The Baby We Just Celebrated 

Leah – Still Waiting For Redemption

Kathy Escobar – Pain Relief Not Pain Removal

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Showing 6 comments
  • Franz Tieber

    My blog is http://franz-surimuri.blogspot.com
    “Surimuri” means hodgepodge or knick-knacks. I’m Catholic.
    The Atlantic is it that separates us from each other and yet it is my “successful”, join now already a second time to your blog.
    You write very well (very honest). But for me, two questions remain:

    1 – Do You write for Orthodox Christians, for Christians, or for all people?
    2 – I would be interested in your personal opinion: Do you think that the Athos (like the entire rest of Christendom as well) today, is “Salt of the Earth”?

    If you find time to answer, i will be very happy – if not, I will not be in a huff (offended) because you write that you may not be able to answer.

    I wish you peace of mind (heart) in any case for a Happy New year 2012.


    • ellenharoutunian

      Hi Franz,

      I am not Orthodox, despite the Armenian name. I currently attend a Lutheran church (after a long journey through various forms of evangelicalism). I do not know Athos, except as one of the Musketeers! 🙂
      Blessings in the New Year.

  • leah

    literally “lovely” post and I love the Quaker blessing. Peace!

  • Carol Kuniholm

    Thank you! You capture so well the beauty, underlying sorrow, and mystery of Christ’s coming. Yes – time to grow up and discover together how to live the kingdom with those we’ve left behind. Beautifully said.
    I discovered you through synchroblog and will definitely be back.

  • Tammy Carter

    As always, love your posts, love your blog! Ya know, I usually get bugged by the commercialism too, but then, I fall into the obligation of giving gifts. I think some are okay, but as with everything there is a balance. Can I paint a card or a small painting and give that to someone and maybe let the “excess” go to paying medical debt? Probably. So, sometimes it is hard to think about where all of are resources could be going. As you said, ‘passing away from hunger, sex traficking, dictatorship’,etc. Honestly, I was thinking this last night about the ball that is dropped for our NYE celebration. It’s amazing the cost and lighting and everything that goes into something we pay attention to for maybe one minute. All the while we still have homeless and hunger right here in our own country. But, it’s going to take most of us sacrificing a little, some or what we can. One person can’t do it all.

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