Sometime just prior to Halloween I heard my first Christmas carol of the season. It flipped a switch inside of me and I was ready for Christmas.
Of course, my gifts weren't purchased and I was pleasantly surprised to feel 40 degree days rather than the 4 below I was expecting, but all through November I waited anxiously for the snow and for the rest of the world to be ready to play Christmas songs.
Yet now it's the night before Christmas, the tree is decorated, the gifts are wrapped, the last of the cookies are in the oven, and the snow gently falling. But I am ready to put on the brakes.
Christmas isn't the most wonderful time of the year when you're unemployed. Rather, it's a brutal reminder of your lack of income, your need to pinch every penny, and your wreath decorating your parents' home rather than your apartment.
Giving up isn't an option, but hope is fleeting. Still I pray "Thy will be done" and "Send me." Still I have a nice collection of rejection letters.
I don't mean to be all doom and gloom, but, honestly, singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is lying through my two front teeth.
I try not to linger too long in this world of overwhelming pessimism. Life is hard right now, and I'm sick of repeating myself about my failing job search. I'm well beyond ready to talk about something else.
So let's talk about some other people whose world may have also seemed overwhelmingly pessimistic.
Mary. She's pregnant and engaged but her fiancé isn't the father. I bet she got sick of trying to explain that.
Joseph. Someone else impregnated his betrothed. Well, isn't that a sticky situation?
Herod. Some baby is lobbying for his throne (or so he thinks).
The inn keeper. The "No vacancy" sign is illuminated yet still there's a very, very pregnant woman and her man on the front porch.
The sheep, oxen, and other stable animals. Um, hello, there's a baby in their breakfast bowl.
Jesus. God Himself is being shoved into the skin of an infant. Ouch.
The Christmas story is not exactly what the Jews were expecting. Nope, rewind. Christmas was absolutely nothing like what the Jews have been anticipating, the hope-filled stories they've been passing down for generations.
A king was supposed to come to rescue them. Fallen cities would be restored, a temple would be rebuilt, death would be destroyed, and peace truly would exist on earth.
The long-awaited Messiah... a baby. It didn't make sense.
Emmanuel--God with us---is sleeping in a dirty cow trough.
Yup, definitely not the most wonderful time of the year.
I'm so glad Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds, et al. didn't call it quits, didn't tell God how to do His job. Even in these less than ideal conditions, hope shone brighter than the star illuminating the sky.
Like the shepherds, I am willing to drop everything and sing praises to the One who deserves them.
Like the inn keeper, I offer all of what I have, even if it doesn't seem like much.
Like Joseph, I desire to be obedient even when it looks very different than I expected.
Like Mary, I want to be faithful to what God has asked of me
Like Jesus, I seek to do what needs to be done no matter how uncomfortable, how agonizing it may be.
And, unlike Herod, I am not going to take matters into my own hands.
Maybe the most wonderful time of the year doesn't mean a walking in a winter wonderland.
Maybe it means hope and anticipation for something new. It means finding peace and comfort in God's promise never to abandon us. It means joy even in life's less than comfortable moments. It means resting in the loving arms of the Father.
The most wonderful time of the year is any moment when you remember that Christ truly is Emmanuel, God with us, both now and forevermore.