Make your house fair as you are able . . .
November 26, 2020
The 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights are finally shining (although not twinkling) and the family is gathered on the lawn to watch. One by one Clark hugs them until at last he gets to COUSIN EDDIE!!!!! Where did HE come from? From the broken-down RV parked in the driveway, of course. Same as every year. In fact that’s WHY I watch every year. From chopping down the ginormous tree (“She’ll see it later, dear, her eyes are frozen.”) to Aunt Bethany’s gifts (“This box is meowing.” “She wrapped up her cat.”). From the Jelly of the Month Club Christmas bonus (“That’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”) to SWAT teams, squirrels and Clark with a chainsaw (“Fixed the newel post.”), all Clark Griswold wants is to give his family the perfect Christmas. And that wish spirals into perfect, inevitable, hilarious chaos. “Worse?! How could things get any worse? Take a look around you, Ellen! We’re at the threshold of Hell!!” At which point, of course, it gets worse. Every year.
While thinking and praying about how we can do the ancient rituals of this year’s Advent/Christmas season, I started thinking about our other rituals during these days. And one of those is watching beloved Christmas movies and TV specials that have been passed down through the years. And I thought about how many of them are about ideal, wonderful Christmases where everything works out as planned. Exactly. None came to my mind either.
So, as 2020 parks its broken-down RV in our Christmas driveway and refuses to leave, I’ll be watching that long ago Griswold Family Christmas come apart, right on schedule. Not so much because it will make me feel better that at least my Christmas won’t be THAT bad, as because it will remind me (as it was always meant to) of what Christmas is NOT about. And in a year that is going to take away many of our treasured rituals of Christmas, we may need that more than most years. (And the laughter. We definitely need the laughter.)
Because in the end it’s not about that perfect Christmas experience, it’s about the love that gets us through and keeps us together even in and through disaster, that Love, that is born in Jesus Christ and is “with us always, until the end of the age.” In fact, it’s when times like these strip other things away, that we can come to know more surely how powerful that Love is, and that can shape us into people who can better live that Love of God and trust it.
In the end the Griswolds survived that Christmas. And Clark got not what he wanted, but what he needed. And I like to think that because of that they’re still together. (Though not physically this year, what with the spouses and grandkids, unless they’re social distancing and in masks.) And that wherever they are, they tell their story and sing their favorite Christmas song, “Oh the rockets’ red glare . . .”
So let it be for us, for our parishes, for our world. That in the ways that we find to wait this Advent, to celebrate this Christmas, we might find at our heart what we need, that the true promise of our God, of our salvation, is born after all. And that we might look back on this year, different and difficult as it might be, as a time that because we so needed God’s grace, it became easier to find. And because it became easier this time, it became easier at all times.
Wouldn’t that just be the hap, hap, happiest of Christmases?