I bought a Christmas cactus this year. I was so excited to bring it home, but after I did, I noticed that it was pretty droopy (maybe that’s why it was on sale for such a good price?), and then about two weeks before Christmas, it bloomed. Not really how I was imagining my Christmas cactus to behave, how I thought it should be.
It seems as I get older that Christmas is just never quite the same as it was when I was a child. The wonder and excitement get lost in the hurry, in the stress, in the I-have-to-get-everything-done-and-done-well. My stress increases just thinking about getting cookies done and the mess they make–both in prep and in eating! I worry about having everything for the meals and whether I’ll have time to clean the house before guests arrive. It’s just considered bonus if I have time to put on makeup and fix my hair. I’m anxious about the kids being disappointed on Christmas morning. Not to satisfy their every whim and desire, but sad kids because of disappointed hopes are a bummer. Or something small happens, like my cactus blooms two weeks early.
And sometimes the things that bring us down at Christmas aren’t even as mundane as those I just listed. Maybe the usual cookies won’t be made because health concerns prevent it. Maybe there will be no guests because of a death or other loss. Maybe there are no children to fuss over.
Christmas in a broken world means a broken Christmas. It just won’t ever live up the expectations we place on it. Because our expectations miss the mark.
Christ came to us, in our broken world, because it is broken, because it misses the mark. It had been broken so long that most people didn’t (and still don’t!) recognize that it is broken besides a vague feeling of discontentment, or a sense that things just aren’t quite right.
Christ came to our broken world to turn it on its head, to set things where they should have been all along. It feels foreign and uncomfortable because we’ve lived with broken for so long that it’s become comfortable. Or at the least, familiar.
But God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” See Isaiah 43:19 for the full verse. This new thing He is doing? It’s newness in Christ. It’s something unexpected. It’s making a Way for atonement and redemption and propitiation and reconciliation–so much more than we could ever imagine.
So if your Christmas cactus bloomed too early and just looks like a blah plant this Christmas, rejoice in the gift of Life given at Christmas! If your house didn’t get quite as clean as you’d wanted, rejoice in the shelter from God’s wrath over our sin that the Christ-child gives! If your Christmases will never be the same because you’ve lost a loved one, rejoice quietly in the hope offered in Christ’s resurrection.
We’re broken now, living in a broken world, with the reality of broken Christmases. But because of that brokenness, Christ’s love shines all the brighter.
May He keep you this Christmas and always in His mercy and love.