We all become children again at Christmas. Christmas is a season dedicated to the birth of a child: a little tiny newborn baby.
As much as I love Christmas and everything that comes with December and snow and sparkling lights, Christmas is hard. Christmas break is a kind of lull in the middle of the year. And at least for me, this year, break has been a chance to look at the past semester and chalk the past four months up to failure. Horrible, miserable, ugly failure.
Failure hurts. It hurts, hitting the wall then sliding down with a sickening crunch, climbing into the massive scale of self-reckoning and watching that needle slide from even to empty. Failure leaves you with a stomachache. And a horrible feeling of inadequacy - and that heartache is worse than the stomachache.
Finish this thought - what's the problem with failure? Why does it hurt? I think failure hurts because we forget how inadequate we are. We are little and broken and dependent. Sometimes, reality just hits you in the face and knocks the back of your head into the bricks behind you.
Nobody aspires to be imperfect. Independence is a goddess, all but canonized. The ability to do everything well is modernity's Mecca. And at the same time, don't we all want to be givers? I want to be all things to all people. I want to help everyone. Serve everyone. Love everyone. Be authentic all the time. Always have that available shoulder for people to cry on. Always be able to articulate my soul with ease and accuracy. Always.
More on that here from someone much more eloquent than I:
Oh the heartache that comes with realizing that my arms just aren't big enough for all the people. For the whole blessed world.
It hurts to realize that I haven't loved everyone. That I've hurt people. That I haven't done all things well. That I've actually done some things very, very badly.
I want another chance this Christmas.
"I will keep Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the past, present and the future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh tell me I can sponge away the writing on this stone." (1)
Enter the next temptation: Christmas is just that magical second chance at perfection. Christmas is the season of giving. We have received so much - everything - how much more are we supposed to give? Gratitude. Gentleness. Peace. Humility. Generosity. Service. Time. Heart. Love.
And with this second chance - if I get a second chance - I simply cannot screw this one up. This time, I'll do a perfect job. This time, I will keep all three spirits within me per-fect-ly. This time, I'll make up for all those horrible past imperfections and completely erase them. This time, the future will be perfect.
This time -
"For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when it's mighty Founder was a child Himself." (2)
What is Christmas? What does it really mean to keep Christmas in your heart?
Christmas is about being a child.
Being a child is about being humble. Children's faults are writ large - the selfishness, the battle of wills, the sudden, flaring anger, the pride, the dishonesty. Children aren't perfect and the whole world certainly knows that. And accepts that. And loves the child anyway. And punishes the faults, but loves the child dearly.
Christmas is about humility.
Humility is akin to honesty. Honesty gives itself - all, but only itself. In the biting cold of a December so many years past, the Lord gave Himself. Perfect, but like us. He came as a Person, not as a list of virtues.
Christmas is about gentleness.
The Lord doesn't ask for perfection. He asks for us. Just us. We are the ones who put all of those requirements on ourselves. He is much more gentle with us than we are with ourselves.
Children give themselves - complete with sticky fingers and chocolate smeared mouths and grins. I need to learn that humble honesty.
So I suppose the year wasn't a failure after all. Oh to learn gentleness this Christmas.
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart. (3)