Guest post by Emily Cramer
Those sleigh bells are ring-jing-jangling my nerves to a fray as my little girl squeals along with the song and the baking burns and the phone rings and the cat knocks the glass ornament off the tree again and I am pulled taut as a bowstring, ready to let fly. The usual holly jolly chaos grates at me this year as a recent Andy Stanley sermon clangs through my mind again. Reconciliation – that tricky topic – and now, instead of anticipating all the relationships I’ll be celebrating this season, I find myself brooding over those I won’t, the conspicuously empty spots at the table, the ghosts of Christmas past.
It’s no secret that Christmas turns up the heat under whatever we’ve been cooking. If the year has been filled with harmony and peace, we just bubble merrily there under the mistletoe. But if there has been bad blood, severed ties, loss, discord… well, look out. The season will scald us raw. This year I find myself again in that pessimistic place of seeing loss not light, problems where there should be peace.
The most dangerous lie we tell ourselves in relationships, said Andy, is that we “just don’t care.” Whatever our reasons, we step away from the source of conflict, shut part of ourselves down, and to cope, believe the lie that it doesn’t affect us anymore. I’ve done that, slammed shut my heart and told myself it would be less painful to lock someone out. And then I’ve spent years staring at the back of a door where there used to be the warmth and dearness and humanity of the person behind it.
There are things that seem unforgivable, wrongs I just can’t get past, and as much as I long for the people across the breach, I can’t imagine – even in my clearest moments – any way forward. I doubt the God of the impossible again and again, seeing the baby in the manger instead of the captain of angel armies, seeing the still small whisper of God as futile against the screaming horde of brokenness. Why does God seem so small?
But as I write this, it strikes me as an odd frustration to voice at Christmas. If ever there was a locked door, it was between me and God, and it was a tiny baby squalling in the hay that cracked it open. It wasn’t heroism or might or a lengthy therapist-lead group session where each individual’s needs and hurts were aired and interpreted that set things right. It was the smallness and vulnerability and humility of God, restricted by time one night in Bethlehem. A baby began to tear down that barrier so I could be seen, so I could face God again. I tend to think of Christmas as a story of love and hope, but not really as a model for reconciliation. And yet there it is in front of me, the babe in the manger, setting the pattern for the perfect human life, for my life.
I love that in the midst of our high calling as Christians, we serve a God who lets us off the hook so easily, who does the work for us. I don’t have to fix the impossible through intellectual force or superhuman strength. All I have to do is follow, inch by tiny inch. All I need is to ask for the humility to be led by a baby.
Emily Cramer lives in Barrie with her husband and daughter and teaches at Georgian College. They have attended Connexus since 2013 and feel privileged to journey with the amazing people they’ve met there. Emily writes a column for the Christian Courier and is thrilled (and nervous!) to be sharing on the Connexus blog.