a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

It’s Christmas Eve morning and I’m sitting in the hush with my Peets Holiday Blend in a festive mug.

It’s silent here, except for the gentle snoring of pugs and I’m savoring this time for meditation and stillness.

I watch a lot of holiday movies, from classics to Hallmark, and watching them, I hear things.

I hear proclamations about the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is about family or Christmas is about home or Christmas is for the children.

I hear things about the “magic of Christmas,” which seems to mean Santa Claus is real, anyone short might be an elf, and even if your boyfriend is stuck in a blinding snowstorm, he will make it to your tree with an engagement ring by Christmas Eve.

Many people celebrate a secular Christmas, and many people celebrate holidays other than Christmas this time of year, and that’s wonderful.

I live with someone, in fact, who not only celebrates a secular Christmas, if he had his way, he’d disappear into the woods the day before Thanksgiving and not return until the new year.

I joyfully participate in a lot of secular Christmas traditions - like making peanut butter roll candy and exchanging gifts and wearing Santa hats.

But here’s the thing - Christmas is not about home or family or diamond rings.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ,

God coming into the world, light dwelling among us.

Surely this is why Christmas was placed on the calendar so near the Winter Solstice and Hanukkah, celebrations of light.

God doesn’t need defending.

Jesus does not need one more person out here judging and correcting on his behalf.

The only “war on Christmas” is the one we wage when we make decisions based in bigotry and fear and selfishness.

I’m thinking about the true meaning of Christmas because of despair and loneliness and heartache.

Every year, I see people in pain because their Christmas Day doesn’t look or feel like the movie version.

I have been that person.

I can think of times when Christmas felt weird and sad, even brutal, because I couldn’t line up the circumstances of my life with what I wanted them to be and what I thought Christmas was supposed to be.

There is so much pressure available to us this time of year.

We are reminded of those we love who are no longer with us in the physical. We are reminded of everything in our lives that is not perfect, not working, not what we’d like it to be. Our wounds are prodded and magnified.

This year, the world does indeed feel weary.

But there is hope. There is hope.

Christmas is not about that big beautiful meal, or reindeer sweaters, or checking things off of your list.

It’s not about magic.

Or even happiness, really.

Christmas is about God born into the world to make us whole.

God is being born, no matter what is happening in your life - no matter how painful or frightening.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
— Advent Calendar, Rowan Williams

If you ever wonder where Jesus is, that’s where he is - right in the middle of the darkness - standing with the hurting, the broken the outcast, the anxious, the oppressed.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a brown-skinned messiah, a refugee whose family was forced to flee violence, whose entire ministry on earth was about breaking down borders and boundaries and revealing to us that what God wants is for us is that we love one another, clothe one another, feed one another, welcome one another, no exceptions.

When we welcome the refugee, we welcome ourselves.

When we love our neighbor (or our enemy), we are flowing in the light, we are fulfilling our purpose, we are with God.

God comes no matter what - whether or not you are ready or prepared or joyful or expectant.

God is with us.

That’s the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is not given to the deserving and withheld from the naughty.

Christmas shows us that God loves us wholly and without conditions.

Christmas is not about an elf who sits in your house cataloging your behavior.

Christmas is the dissolution of barriers between ourselves and the Divine.

Christmas doesn’t give us what we want; it shows us who we are.

So maybe your Christmas traditions involve going home, gathering with your family. Maybe they include the exchange of lavish gifts.

Maybe your Christmas tradition is a walk in the woods or a quiet meditation.

Mine is midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, then, yes, pug reindeer pajama, dinner with my family on Christmas night.

But Christmas isn’t about what I buy, what I eat, or whether or not my wishes are coming true.

Christmas is about finding room in my heart for Christ to be born.

That is peace, and peace is what I wish for you.

Peace is what I wish for the weary world.