Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chasing the Perfect Christmas

I read an article on last year that made this startling claim: Christmas day is better than any other at murdering us.

Between 1973 and 2001, Christmas Day netted 53 million deaths, making it the #1 killer on the calendar. And when you look at its weapons of choice, it's almost as though the entire tradition was intentionally calibrated to snuff you out with a quiet efficiency.

Picture a perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas morning—family around a crackling fireplace, including Grandma and all the relatives. Mom fixes dad an eggnog while preparing the Christmas ham, just two of the many traditional holiday foods known outside of December as "the worst things you can put in your body that aren't a live hand grenade." You've got the Christmas presents under the tree that Dad spent all night putting together, and that Mom spent the past month freaking out about buying. We’re talking stress on top of stress, and that along with exhaustion is a great way to kill your heart.

Which brings us to the crackling fire, or as your heart calls it, "my chance to test drive the body of a pack a day smoker." According to a 1999 report on what cardiologists call “the holiday effect"—"pollutants from wood-burning fireplaces trigger cardiovascular irregularities."

So according to science, you might be the only thing in your living room that's not trying to kill you this Christmas.

And yet more of us than not will be chasing a perfect Christmas once again this year. I’ve never understood the yearning for a perfect Christmas, especially since I’ve never seen one and especially since the original Christmas was anything but perfect, at least according to human standards: an unwed pregnancy, a nine-day overland journey for a woman up against her due date; a birth in a musty stable amid dusty straw, steaming animal dung, and the mother away from home and mom and everything familiar and comfortable. Just perfect, huh? Hardly.

Yet many of us still chase that perfect Christmas. How long will it take us to learn that the perfect Christmas is an illusion; it’s fool’s gold, it’s a chasing of the wind? All it does is set us up for disappointment and a post-Christmas depression—over the child who didn’t make it home or over Uncle Frank who did, or the failure to give or get the perfect gift, or the decorations that didn’t quite stack up to your neighbors, or a Christmas with no snow yet again. And the truth of the matter is that the more we chase the perfect Christmas, the farther we run away from the perfect Christ.

Why don’t you quit chasing the perfect Christmas and start chasing the perfect Christ? He is not so hard to find, you know. You might find him at work, at school, at church. You may see him in a neighbor or in the lady ringing the bell at a Salvation Army bucket. You might find Jesus in the homeless man you pass on the city street or the checker at the store. Keep your eyes peeled, your antennae up, and your heart open to see the living Christ this season. You will find him for sure.

And as you chase Christ you’ll finds something even better: you’ll find that Christ is chasing you. Isn’t that the Christmas mission after all? Jesus come to earth to save the likes of us, to grace us and forgive us and set us right with God and one another. Didn’t Jesus say to that scoundrel tax collector Zacchaeus, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost”? So quit chasing the perfect Christmas. It could flat out kill you. Here’s a better idea, a Christian idea: chase the perfect Christ who is chasing after you. That chase ends in salvation. That chase ends in life.

Advent is upon us once again. Decoration boxes have been pulled from the attic or the garage. Christmas lists are being made. Some of you have already lost a night’s sleep doing Black Friday shopping. Some of you have already waded into debt buying things you can’t afford, and others of you will soon join them. You’re fretting over getting out your Christmas cards on time. Your calendar is full of parties to attend and year-end work to be done. Your stress level is heading to the danger zone, and your blood pressure is not far behind. The Christmas hype is upon us, and the chase for the perfect Christmas has begun as if Christmas won’t come if you don’t get all that stuff done. It’s like a mission. And for what? I mean really, for what?

Would you just cool it? If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, here’s your mission in this season: chase the Christ who’s chasing you. Or to put it another way: worship Christ, not Christmas.

No comments:

Post a Comment