(Adapted from Sunday's sermon by Pastor Eric Hiner)
The images evoked at Christmas when it comes to family are usually those that are ideal. We picture the family all getting together with smiles around the tree, the fireplace glowing, and the anticipation of the gift exchange, the perfect gifts that will make each person happy, is in the air. It is, for all intents and purposes, something captured by Norman Rockwell. Realistically, though, it may be more appropriately captured in "Christmas Vacation," where Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase) has placed impossible demands on the expectations of the "perfect" Christmas.
Even in a scene reminiscent of one of Rockwell's more famous paintings, the family gathered around the table as the turkey is being placed on the table as the father, wearing a tie, is preparing to carve it as the large family all smiles in anticipation, so too in "Christmas Vacation," Clark Griswold, wearing his own tie and preparing to carve the turkey, smiles as though it is perfect. As the scene unfolds, Clark's Aunt Bethany says "The Pledge of Allegiance" instead of the prayer for the meal, during which Cousin Eddie stands up and covers his heart. Next, the turkey gasps and gives a cloud of steam as Clark tries to carve it, showing it was over-cooked. As the scene moves on, they discover Aunt Bethany put cat foot in her Jello dish, and Cousin Eddie's dog "Snot" goes through the trash in the kitchen.
Our expectations exceed reality at times like Christmas.
We learn the pains of Christmas go back to its roots, the birth of Christ. In Matthew 1, Matthew tells us that Mary and Joseph are engaged to be married, and then the news comes to Joseph that Mary is pregnant. Mary is pregnant and not married, an offense in Judaism that carries the weight of a stoning as punishment. Joseph realizes the magnitude of this, and apparently, as Matthew writes, chooses to leave Mary rather than carry out the request for punishment. "And her husband, Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly." (1:19) Mary may have attempted to explain to Joseph where the child came from. Scripture does not reveal that, but imagine being Joseph if she had. "This baby is God's. His Spirit made me pregnant." That would be difficult to believe.
Yet God intervenes, and an angel reveals himself to Joseph in a dream to assure Joseph "...that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." (20). In truth, much like in that first Christmas, our focus should only be on Christ. Christ makes perfect out of imperfection, then and now. The trappings of Christmas strip the miracle we know as Christ and leave us literally with empty packages. However, with our gaze on the Christ-child, our hope is in Him.
Hope Men's Ministry