I don’t usually make a ton of resolutions for the new year, but this year I do have just one.
My New Year’s resolution is that I’ve decided to write no more spiritual-sounding bloggy posts on giving thanks in all circumstances when my family is sick for Thanksgiving…bc it turns out when you do that, you will be given an even greater opportunity in which to give thanks by your entire family being sick with strep and flu for the ENTIRETY of Christmas vacation, and then some…and you will fail miserably again and again at feeling anything resembling thankfulness. And feel sort of like a hypocrite.
This has not been my most favorite of Christmases, not by a long shot. Influenza hit our family the week before Christmas and has lasted past the time when Jay should have returned to work were he not down with fever still. It is no fun to watch your family members, one by one be taken out by the worst flu bug you recall seeing in your 40 years.
It is no fun to watch your babies (yes, they are still my babies) suffer with fevers for 7, 8, 9 days long, to watch them one by one all throw up their flu meds till you disgustedly toss the meds in the trash because they are making things worse. And then to see those same babies, even after the fevers break, continue to lay there with no energy for playing.
It is no fun to watch your oldest son of 11 years old so overcome with fever that he cries when he realizes he has now caught the flu, too, and as a result, will be missing his much-anticipated, first trip ever to Winter Scout Camp.
It is no fun to sleep on an air mattress on the living room floor by yourself night after night during Christmas vacation b/c there is nowhere else left in the house to go sleep where people don’t have high fever and flu germs, and you are the only healthy one left to care for all the sickies, so you’d best do everything you can not to catch it.
And it’s REALLY not fun when the kids finally all get healthy but dear old Dad is taken down and has to spend a week (yes, a week) back in the bedroom while the kids take turns asking over and over when he’ll be well enough to come play and have fun before he has to go back to work!!
But….whenever I’d grumble about how sad I was about our “ruined” Christmas, courtesy of this horrid illness which hit every member of our little family (except yours truly), knocking healthy folks on their backs for a week and more, with high fevers and wracking, painful coughs…my sweet, wonderful husband (who has his flaws, but being discontent is not usually one of them) would smile patiently. And give me a hug (well, at least when he wasn’t contagious!). And he’d propose to me that maybe a Christmas holiday full of sickness and sadness is a much more realistic picture of why we need Christmas in the first place. And even, perhaps, a better representation of the first Christmas long ago. Much more so than any perfect holiday we could dream up.
God’s sacrifice in sending Jesus to earth, though romanticized for the sake of our Christmas stories and songs was not pretty or tidy. Jesus was God, he was king of the universe: immortal, omnipotent, and he humbled himself enough to become human. He chose to leave the glory and majesty of heaven and come live in our world of sickness: flu, strep, fevers, coughing…and sadness….and death.
The first Christmas wasn’t Norman Rockwellian in the slightest. There was no mention of influenza upon Jesus’ arrival in this world. But his impending birth was announced under questionable circumstances to a woman not yet wed, and he made his first appearance in a stable of all places. Labor in a stable? Freshly born baby placed in an animal trough? And this little king’s first visitors: not the wealthy, noble, royal types you’d expect to show up for the birth of God’s son, but shepherds. Some of the most humble, lowly folk in town were the first to worship and pay respects to this little boy.
My guess is that none of this is what Mary had in mind when she dreamed of becoming a mother. And yet this was the incarnation. This was Emmanuel, God with us…because he loved us enough to bring himself into our world of pain and suffering, to know our sorrows, to take them on as his own. Even the manner in which he showed up reflected such humility and recognition of the world in which he’d come to live. And oh how thankful we are that he came to dwell with us, and to save us…from things far, far worse than the flu!!
I haven’t done a good job of feeling thankful in all things this Christmas…and how true it is that my circumstances are nowhere near as hard as some of the realities and hardships that friends of mine are dealing with this year. And you know what? It is ok. Because in spite of my circumstances, and perhaps even more because of our circumstances this holiday, I can still thank God for Emmanuel. Christmas is still Christmas…Jesus still came. And as a friend who himself was also down with the flu this Christmas so simply and beautifully put it…
We don’t need a perfect Christmas for Jesus to be real.