I think the problem at Christmas for so many believers is the pressure to come through for so many other people.
I have to come through in the gift buying department. Family, coworkers, the paper deliverer, the mail carrier, the Salvation Army kettles, and on and on it goes. I have to come through for them all.
I have to come through for the program planners and participants in all the church functions. Sunday School class parties, the kids’ Sunday School parties, the kids Christmas program, the youth Christmas program, the Choir’s Christmas Cantata, the Christmas Eve communion service, the community Christmas service…did I miss anything?
I have to come through for everyone who knows I am a Christian and those who don’t on the crowded city streets, the busy shopping malls, and the jam-packed restaurants during the Christmas season. I have to come through for the terrible drivers (for both their sake and whomever of my family is riding with me at the time), the rude shoppers, and the overworked and totally stressed waiters and waitresses.
I have to come through for God. I can’t embarrass Him with my short fuse, misrepresent Him with lazy or convenient theology, or complain to Him about all the extra work and responsibility both Christmas and Easter seem to heap on me. I can’t shrug off the responsibility as a pastor, father, and husband to combat the rampant materialism that invades church and home. Even though it makes me look like a Grinch.
I have to come through with all the decorations, the money, the time, the patience, and the self-censorship. I have to come through because it’s Christmas time.
Have you noticed anything yet? So far I have used the word “I” 15 times (not counting the last one). Four times I have used the word “me” or “my.” Isn't that the real problem? Am I saying anything that isn’t true for the average Christian at this time of the year? I don’t think so. There is so much pressure to come through for so many people (even God) that I just want to stop and scream “I can’t do it!” I don’t have the money to buy everyone a great gift. I don’t have the patience to adequately reflect the true Spirit of the season. I don’t have the time to do what everyone wants (expects) me to do. And worst of all I do not have the ability to not feel guilty about not being able to come through for everyone (and that includes even you, God).
But God, being the grace-filled Father that He is always finds something or someone to remind me that Christmas is not about “me” coming through for anyone, especially Him. So yesterday I am doing some research and I am stopped dead in my tracks as I read the following from God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.
Did you catch that about being completely dependent that the door has to be opened from the outside? Of course Bonhoeffer is absolutely right! Advent and Christmas are about God opening the prison door from the outside. My only responsibility at Christmas is to walk out and live in His freedom.
I don’t have to come through at Christmas for anyone. He does and He did! And I sure don’t have to “come through” for God. All I have to “come through” is the prison door that Jesus Christ came to open for me and everyone else. I have discovered that living on the other side of that door (that Jesus alone opened) goes a long way toward “coming through” on all those expectations I mentioned above.
If you can’t enjoy Christmas because you know you can’t come through for everybody…then just come through the prison door Jesus opened for you. Let God be God and kneel in worship at the manger. Stop trying to come through for everyone. You can’t. Christmas isn’t about you or me coming through for anyone. It’s about God coming through to us. Amen.