A Broken Christmas

“It’s a broken Christmas.”

That’s what went through my head last week as I stood in front of my kitchen sink mulling over the events of the last 7 days.  First the heat had stopped working, and we got a whole new HVAC unit on the advice of the repairman.  Four days after that installation, my husband’s car broke down and made it clear that it’s time to put it out to pasture.  Neither were real shocks – we knew they were coming.  And we had money saved for when they broke.  But, despite all those car commercials at Christmas featuring huge red bows, neither were what I wanted to buy for Christmas.

Just a moment after I had that thought, though, I smiled.  Because it occurred to me that “It’s a broken Christmas” might just not be a bad Christmas saying.  In fact, it may be good theology.  Because Christmas is about God coming to a broken world to redeem and heal broken people.

Broken OrnamentWe are broken people

Ever since Adam took a bite of the fruit Eve handed to him from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we have all been born broken, with a sin nature that we are helpless to fight.  This brokenness is described in Scripture as:

  • Going astray and turning our own way (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Being distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36)
  • None who seeks for God or who does good (Romans 3:11-12)
  • Being children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
  • Having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12)
  • Alienated and hostile in mind (Colossians 1:21)
  • Being God’s enemy (Romans 5:10)

Most of the world tries to make it not sound this bad by saying that people are basically good and the ones who aren’t are because of something in their environment when they were growing up.  But all of us know deep down in our hearts that we are broken.  We know the ugliness that is there, even if we can hide it at times.  The selfishness, unkindness, judgmental thoughts, pride, anger, impatience – I could go on and on.

But Jesus came on Christmas to save us from that brokenness – from both the penalty and power of sin.  His perfect life ended in His spotless sacrifice to pay for our sin.  All of it.  For all time.  And when we trust in that sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin, we are healed.  We are now described as:

  • Holy, blameless, and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:22)
  • A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • A child of God (John 1:12)
  • Heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:7)
  • A citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • Free in Christ (Galatians 5:1)
  • Holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12)
We live in a broken world

Adam’s sin didn’t just affect humans.  It affected EVERTHING.  Part of the curse in Genesis 3 was that the ground was cursed.  It now would grow thorns and thistles and Adam’s work would now be difficult.  In the beginning, God made a perfect world and created man for that perfect world.  And we still long for it deep inside.  We were made for Paradise and yet we live in this world for now.  One that is flawed and that wears out and ages and that is broken.  Jesus acknowledges this when He promises us in John 16:33 that we will have tribulation in this world.  I like the way Larry Crabb said it in Inside Out: “We must remember that our Lord’s promise of Paradise today was given to a man about to die.”  (pg. 75)

But Christmas means that while we yearn inside for Paradise, we have the confident hope that one day we will be there if we have placed our faith in Christ to be our Savior and Lord.  Even more than that, we also know that one day this broken world will be gone, replaced with perfection.  Jesus came the first time at Christmas, but He is coming back again!  This time it won’t be as a baby in a manger but as a warrior on a white horse with the armies of heaven following Him.  Every time I read Revelation 19:11-16 I get excited!  Come Lord Jesus!

He will completely conquer sin and death and Satan.  And this old broken world will pass away and there will be a new heaven and a new earth where there are no more tears and no more death and no more mourning or crying or pain.  (Revelation 21:1-4)  The Christmas story isn’t just of Jesus coming once, but it’s the promise that He will come back again and restore all things.

So it’s a broken Christmas at my house.  My guess is that all of us have a broken Christmas in some way whether it’s in our stuff or in our relationships or in our bodies.  But let’s use the brokenness to drive us to gratitude for a Savior who came to this broken world to mend our brokenness and who gives us the promise of not always living in a broken world.  When you think of what He left (continuous worship in Heaven) for what He came to (insults, mocking, and ultimately death), it’s astounding that He came at all.  But “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)  Thank you, Jesus!

 

Christmas Traditions

Sometimes I think no one can do Christmas traditions like the Pollock family.  We have so many that at times it can be hard to find the time to get them all in!  But we love every bit of it!

Some of our traditions started when I was a child.  My dad always read us Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve right before we went to bed.  Since my brother is 9 years younger than I am (and 7 years younger than my sister), this tradition lasted a long time for the three of us.  Then my sister passed it on and reads it to her two boys every Christmas Eve.

Several years ago my mom took this picture of some of our family's favorite Christmas things. The book Dad would read to us is at the upper left.

Several years ago my mom took this picture of some of our family’s favorite Christmas things. The book Dad would read to us is at the upper left.

Taffy

Mom and me at the end of our taffy pull in 2005.

Other traditions have evolved over time.  For example, when my mom was growing up, her family would make taffy.  She passed this on to us, and it was something we did at times throughout the year especially when we were in high school.  It wasn’t unusual for us to have our friends over to pull taffy.  We even added a creative element by forming the long ropes into shapes (the initials of boyfriends was a favorite!).  But as we got older, our taffy making moved into becoming an annual Christmas tradition.  A delicious one, too, I might add!

An old Thanksgiving tradition has also become a Christmas tradition for our family.  My great-grandmother made the best chicken pot pie (which I later found out was really chicken and dumplings, but that was what she called it).  Now that we no longer get it for Thanksgiving, Mom makes it for us for Christmas every year – taking the time to even make the pastry from scratch like my great-grandmother did.

PuzzleSome traditions are newer.  About 15 years ago, I began doing a puzzle at Christmas.  I love puzzles and saw a cute Rudolph one that got me started with attaching puzzles to the holiday.  When I was single and home the week before Christmas, I would do it on the kitchen table, and it became a family thing when my sister and her family would help out when they were over.  Now that I’m married, my sister’s family and I carry on the tradition, each doing puzzles at our homes and texting pictures of the finished product to each other.

Our traditions are important to our family.  They create great memories, bind us together, and connect one generation to the next.  But I also have a personal Christmas tradition – one that is just with me and Jesus.

a christmas longingIn 1999, my dear friend, Kit, gave me a book by Joni Eareckson Tada called A Christmas Longing.  I loved the way that the words pulled me away from the commercial Christmas and back to the real meaning of Christmas.  And so every year since 1999, after Thanksgiving I pull out this book and read one or two “chapters” each day during my quiet time.

It is my own tradition, and it is a tradition for my heart.  It is a tradition to focus on His first coming and His return.  It is a tradition that slows me down, even if it’s just for a moment.  It keeps the craziness and busyness and gift buying and parties and decorating and my treasured family traditions from taking over and pulling me away from what Christmas is all about.

What are your traditions?  Do you have one for your heart?  I love the greater focus on Advent I’ve noticed over the last few years.  It has meant an increased number of great resources to turn your eyes and heart towards Immanuel at Christmas – ones that will help you pause and marvel that He left His throne for a manger, that He left continuous worship for insults, and that He was born to die for us.

If you don’t have a tradition for your heart, I encourage you to find one.  If you are interested in the book by Joni, you can order one here.  Just this week I found out about this free John Piper Advent devotional.  And there is so much more out there.  Just do a Google search.  But take time to prepare your heart for the holiday.  It will be the best tradition of all.