Summertime is finally upon us in Buenos Aires. We’re running the AC liberally. The skirts and shorts have been in the wardrobe rotation for a while now. I’m getting a good farmer’s tan from all the surveying . And I’ve made good use of our rooftop pool in recent weeks. This has got to be the strangest holiday season I’ve ever had. Listening to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as I apply another layer of sunscreen, I have to keep reminding myself it’s Christmastime.
We Christians like to make a big deal about stressing “the true meaning of Christmas,” making sure the rest of the world knows that we participate in all of the consumerism because of JESUS and NOT because of Santa.
Snarky comments aside, I have always thought I had my heart in the right place over the holidays. I always knew in my head that Christmas is about Christ’s birth and nothing else. And yet, here I am, feeling a little sad to be away on Christmas. Away from my traditions and my family and a fire in the fireplace, is my celebration of Christmas just as joyful as always? I confess that it isn’t.
December has been a month of ups and downs. This past week contained most of the downs. I was pick-pocketed twice on the subway last week, once unsuccessfully and once successfully. I said goodbye to some wonderful American friends, one right after the other, as they all went home, just in time for the holidays. And then the massive tragedy in Newtown Connecticut happened and shook me to the core. I’ve come here to Argentina to pour myself out into Buenos Aires and yet for the past week my heart has been heavy with grief for my own country.
And my heart turns back on the true meaning of Christmas and wonders weakly if the story of the stable can comfort a mourning nation and grieving families. At least, not the way we often tell it. So often we lose ourselves in the details–in the frankincense and myrrh, in animals in the stable—and it all seems like a faraway fairy tale. And then we look at the horrific reality of what has happened here in 2012—dead children—and we question the relevance of a baby in a stable.
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Matthew 2:16
After Jesus was born, Herod, feeling his kingdom threatened, murdered all the baby boys in the whole region of Bethlehem. Mass murders. In Jesus’s time. This evil is not new. God sent his son into the very same world we live in now. Christ himself was nearly a victim of such violence. He knew what he was getting himself into with us.
Don’t get so caught up in the details of the story that we miss the point, the glorious miracle that GOD CAME TO US. He wrapped himself in skin and bone and made himself one of us and came into the world that he made and we ruined. I look at the atrocities and the evil in it and question: why did you come here, Lord? Confronting evil like the kind we saw here in 2012 and in Bethlehem 2000+ years ago makes the Incarnation all the more inconceivable. That God would leave heaven to come be with such bent creatures as humans shows how deeply and unconditionally we are loved.
So this Christmas, it’s okay to mourn because man is sinful and we are vulnerable. But then rejoice. Worship. Celebrate. Because the extent of man’s sinfulness is exceeded by the vastness of God’s great love. We are not alone. He is Emmanuel, God WITH us!
That is worth thanking him for, don’t you think?