It's amazing how a simple phrase has the power to seize attention and capture imagination. Last weekend found me in another city listening to a friend deliver a Christmas message. The whole thing revolved around the simple phrase, "No Ordinary Christmas." I've not been able to shake the concept.
I thought of friends who recently moved from Kelowna to not just another city, but another country. It won't be ordinary for them. They will be surrounded by a new group of people who embrace quite a different set of practices. I thought of the number of highly publicized individuals who have won obscene amounts of money in various lotteries recently. It won't be ordinary for them. How does one choose an appropriate Christmas gift when you've just had $30 million or even $130 million thrust into your lap? Some in our friendship circles have new babies in their home this year while others have new daughters- or sons-in-law. Heck, some even have a new puppy who is threatening to add a new dimension to their celebration.
It has caused me to wonder, is there even such a thing as an ordinary Christmas?
For many, this Christmas will be shaped, not by the joyful experiences described above, but by deeply painful, fearful or challenging circumstances that have invaded their lives. Imagine how a 13-year-old who's the target of cyber bullying might answer the innocent question, "What would you most like for Christmas?" Or how about the young mom with two or three little ones who's just discovered her husband has been fooling around? How about those who have stood at a graveside this year and will face the deeply painful reality of a newly empty chair around their table? My own parents are both 90 years old and while no one knows the future, conditions of health and statistics tell me I better not treat this Christmas as ordinary in my own family. I could make this list as long as the editor would allow space for, but you get the point. Life happens and it includes a mixture of both joy and pain.
The issue is that Christmas magnifies both. There is nothing like this season to flood your heart with both the grandest anticipation and the darkest dread. There is nothing like Christmas to help you express exuberant joy during the great times, and there is nothing like Christmas to cause you to feel the loneliness, fear and pain during the hard times. In other words, there is no such thing as an ordinary Christmas because Christmas is not ordinary .
It certainly wasn't ordinary for Mary when the angel met her with the most unusual greeting. It wasn't ordinary for Joseph, when Mary uttered the words, "Joe, I'm pregnant." Talk about a wrench in the forehead. It wasn't even ordinary for the shepherds minding their own business around the campfire. When's the last time an army of angels appeared to you with a message of that consequence?
If you grant the point that there is no such thing as an ordinary Christmas, the question becomes, "How will you address it?" What will you intentionally do to gain the most, grow the most, remember the most, and create the deepest impact for those you love?
Maybe this Christmas will be a breakthrough in family closeness because of shared pain. Perhaps it will be a unique expression of gratitude because of immense blessing. Possibly, if nothing unusual is occurring in your life, it will be a celebration of stability in some of the most tumultuous times in recent world history. Whatever your circumstance, just don't allow the opportunity for this Christmas to be extraordinary for you.
- Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church; National Pastor with The Leadership Centre/Willow Creek Canada and Chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets.