On the way home from Nashville today, I commented to EA that it didn’t feel like Christmas. Sure, there’s been a decorated tree in our house for two weeks, I’ve been negligent in providing a list to my mom, and we’ve starting singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” at church. Yet I do not feel any different. It is a very Charlie Brown thing to say, I know.
That’s part of the trouble with the holiday season. It is the only time of the year where you are supposed to “feel” a certain way. And you get it from both sides. There’s the secular holly jolly hohoho feeling that’s supposed to emanate from you like never-ending claymation figures from a Rankin-Bass special. Then there is the spiritual awe and wonder that you need to feel because this is Jesus’ birthday and what kind of jerk wad doesn’t get excited about Jesus’ birthday?
(It’s interesting to me that we don’t ever feel that latter form of pressure during Lenten season and Easter, but that’s another topic for another time)
So when you don’t feel any of this stuff? Well, then you feel like something is missing? Me? I feel tired. Part of that is being in seminary. When you have papers and finals that go a week and a half into December, it is understandable that you don’t feel festive; especially if you’re knee deep in research over chaos monsters and the perpetual problem of evil.
On top of that there is life: work, family, travel, Christmas-related responsibilities, etc. It feels like there is absolutely no room for any particular kind of feeling.
I have stopped beating myself up for not feeling a particular way around Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the automatic awe but I realize that you can’t force yourself to feel a certain way any more than you can convince yourself to fall in love. It is freeing when you realize that your feelings are your feelings and there is nothing broken about you if it doesn’t live up to some kind of Hallmark standard.
I do want to make myself available for God to speak to me. This of course should be my desire throughout the year, but there is something special about Advent and Christmas. We have rhythms and seasons in the church for a reason. During this time, we get to marvel on the Incarnation and the unbelievable power of love made most vulnerable. I cannot force myself to feel a certain way, but I don’t want to slam the door on the opportunity to reflect on what the Christ Child means.
So if I have a prayer in these 10 days before Christmas, it would be that I can declutter my mind a bit. I want to be able to make room to think and meditate on what God has done. I do not want to be so busy or preoccupied or whatever else that I forget even though I heard this story every time this year going on three decades.
Warm and fuzzy feelings or not, I want to be present, not preoccupied.