Summary: your expectations of Christmas

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Advent # 3 Resource - Christmas Is Not Your Birthday, Mike Slaughter,

Abingdon Press, 2011

The Mess that Mary’s Mission Created

Christmas is weighed down with expectations! Somehow every year we think this one will be different.

I’ll finally find the perfect gift.

Christmas dinner will be perfect.

Nobody will be cranky, disappointed, or difficult when they come to visit.

Christmas Vacation, the comedy starring Chevy Chase, released in 1989, is a hilarious story of the missed expectations of Christmas. Clark Griswold is determined to make Christmas memorable and he does but not in the way he hoped. In one moment after another, the hapless father finds that his best efforts go wrong. One of the reasons the movie has remained in circulation for two decades is that we can all identify. Like Clark, we have a set of ideals that prove to be illusions unattainable in this present world! Cranky relatives, tempers that flare, exhaustion conspire against our dream of ‘peace on earth, good will to men.”

Pastor Mike Slaughter writes - “Consumer-focused marketing and Victorian Christmas traditions have replaced the Biblical meaning of “God with us.” In our attempts to create magical Christmas experiences we run ourselves into the ground- emotionally, physically, financially, and relationally.”

Will we make the choices that will allow us to find the meaning, the joy of Christmas, in the middle of our imperfection? Will we give up our fantasy of the ‘perfect’ Christmas and experience God’s gifts right where we are?

Here’s what I know. If we follow the story of Christmas told in the Gospels, if we let the real events, rather than our traditions and imaginations, shape our celebration, Christmas will enrich instead of deplete.

TEXT - Luke 1:26-34; 38; 2:6-7 PB 1588

I did a Google image search using the phrase ‘nativity scene’ this week. I chose the bulletin cover photo (show on PPT) from among the pictures I found. Not one of them was anything near realistic. Ever been in a real barn, full of livestock? (Or as is likely the case with Jesus’ birth, in a cave used to house domestic animals?) It’s nothing like the pretty pictures or the nativity scene here at the front of our church. Barns houses animals. I have shoveled what animals produce thoughtlessly. I know the pungent smells of a barn.

Jesus arrived on earth in a barn/cave. Since it was part of the premises of an inn, there were donkeys present. Donkeys were everywhere in Palestine, the beast of burden used by everybody, the utility trucks of the time. And, while there could have been sheep, that’s more of a stretch, since sheep were almost always tended in flocks outside of town by shepherds. There might have been a goat or two, tethered to the wall, as they would become tomorrow’s dinner entree! Possibly there were chickens perched for above. And yes, animal smells were richly redolent. It wasn’t a place I would choose for a baby’s birth.

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