It’s only the end of November as I write this, and I am already fed up with the Christmas commercials on TV. All this talk about winning the holidays by buying more things has got me feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge this year. Sometimes I just want to ‘bah humbug’ the whole season. I want to bring back the magic of Christmas and the simple wonder and joy felt as a child. The season has come so far from its humble beginnings. We have lost the true meaning of the Christmas season and the joy that comes from simply being in relationships with others around us.
In thinking about this foolish work we have been doing as a church, as we finish up our Foolish Church preaching series; I wonder how foolish we are. Foolish enough to welcome in an unwed pregnant teen? Or would we make her walk miles and miles with the hope of finding community? Can we allow her to talk about her fears about bringing a child into this world or do we want her to just sit serenely in the stable with an angelic face? Can we be real, and messy, and raw enough to welcome in others who don’t fit the pictures of the perfect holiday season? Or even scarier still, can we bring our own mess to the light knowing that this church family will catch and support us? Is this community a safe place to talk about our fears, failures, and imperfections?
In fact, I struggled in writing this article because I felt like I should write some serene reflection of joy of the holidays and the wonder of expecting at Christmastime. But at this moment, wonder is not the first word that comes to mind. Uncomfortable, tired, and sore maybe, because I am all those things as I near the end of this pregnancy. And if I’m really being honest, there is hope in a new life coming into the world, along with a lot of fear and worry. Having a baby after a loss is a very frightening thing and something we don’t often talk about. In fact, many do not know that James and I have lost a child. I find that I now worry that every little ache or pain means all will end in loss again. I’m also finding out that having a baby without your own mom there to help is a scary thing. I feel like I do have more of an understanding of Mary this year, in that I too will be having a baby surrounded by in-laws and more distant relatives. I am so grateful for their help and support and would journey hundreds of miles to be with this community (praise God they are all coming to me, so I don’t have to travel and certainly NOT on a donkey). Yet, within my heart there is an ache for my mom. These are hard and scary truths that I have had to work through, but I haven’t had to do this work alone. I have been and continue to be surrounded by a community who loves me and upholds me in my times of struggle.
Are we a community that can talk about these hurts and these hard things? Do we love one another foolishly enough to stop expecting perfect people on the perfect silent night and instead help bear one another’s burdens? We are called not to have the pretty Pinterest version of a holiday season, but rather a season filled with love. We are called to welcome in even the imperfect, even those we don’t always get along with, even the young unwed mothers. Who are you being called to welcome in this season?
On this foolish journey with you,
Pastor Nikki Ross Bishop