Mixed Messages at Christmas

Sadness and joy at Christmas, learning who Jesus is, nativity, The Messiah, Oh Come, Emmanuel, mixed messages at the holidaysChristmas is a mixed message time of year for me.

My mother’s death at Christmas punched most of the cheerful emotion out of the holiday for many years.

Being the mother also can strip away the excitement as I work in the background to provide Christmas “magic.”

But it hasn’t always been so. Every year, I reach back into my memory pocket.

I remember the fledgling Christmas I first understood the significance of Jesus’ birth.

Maybe it’s the (relatively) frosty night from that long ago Southern California Christmas, when a touch of mist in the air mingled with Christmas hymns I’d never sung before, that’s needed to conjure up the wonder.

The dark sky sparkled with shiny stars that night. I could imagine shepherds startled out of sheep-watching by a glorious choir of angels announcing astonishing news.

Astonishing news, I, too, had only begun to grasp.

A secular childhood full of mixted messages

I’d grown up in a mostly secular household. Christmas was stockings, gaily wrapped gifts and a trip to our grandparents’ house.

The Italian side of the family ate towering bowls of pasta and ate chocolate pie.

We played a gift swapping game and admired my cousins’ presents. The adults played poker after the dishes were done and we kids ran around outside. Sometimes we even ate outside if it was warm enough.

I don’t remember ever attending church on Christmas day.

But that fifteenth Christmas, I’d met a group of Christians at Trinity Lutheran Church around the corner. They introduced me to the person of Jesus Christ–not only as a baby long ago born.

He died as the Savior of the world who still lived, seated on God‘s right hand.

Like many Americans, I was familiar enough with Jesus. I’d attended catechism for many years.

But, somehow, I never connected the two. I’d never heard of Jesus as the connector between me and the God who created those stars and spun the planets across the universe.

While I had tried to reach him, to understand God, Jesus never held the front of my consciousness.

It changed that Christmas.

The mixed messages of my childhood disappeared into the truth of Jesus.

Sadness and joy at Christmas, learning who Jesus is, nativity, The Messiah, Oh Come, Emmanuel, mixed messages at the holidays

I mirrored Mary’s wonder: who IS this?

Some of it was the music: Handel‘s Messiah, four-part harmony hymns, Oh Come, oh Come, Emmanuel,  Gloria in Excelsis Deo, the reading of Luke’s gospel.

Much of it had to do with my own reading of the Bible–the person of Jesus and his role on earth became more clear.

I didn’t remember ever hearing the story of Herod sending soldiers to kill all the babies in Bethlehem as a way of suppressing God’s plan.

Jesus looked completely different that Christmas, and something came alive in my heart and soul.

I’ve always loved the ditty, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” There’s no point to all of this without him.

Yes, I’m feeling mixed messages today because of mourning my mother. But the reason for the season, Jesus, is also the comfort for that loss. His birth in that manger saved the world.

Gloria in excelsis Deo–Glory to God in the highest!

Merry Christmas

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  1. Michelle, I am so sorry that Christmas has a tragic memory for you. I know that it;’s something your strong faith transcends, but even Jesus wept at loss.

    Mixed messages are, perhaps, part of our heritage as descendants of the first Adam – and their unraveling is the work the second Adam does in our hearts. I wonder if that process of ‘surgery’ is what brings us back to a place a bit higher than the angels, and that the process allows us to see vistas that would have been hidden in an unfallen Creation?

    And maybe leaving us sadder, but wiser and more suitable eternal companions for our Father?

    In Bali, craftsmen always make one small mistake on anything they produce, so they do not appear to challenge God by thinking they’ve produced something perfect. Maybe the mixed messages through which we walk to that for us?

    I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas Day…and a great Twelve Days to follow!

  2. Michelle Ule

     /  December 26, 2013

    Thank you, Andrew. I’ll always be sorry we lost my mom too soon, but I’m grateful for the reminder to be human and vulnerable during this season. I see this season differently and I’d like to think I’m more sensitive to the broken hearts of others! This year was good. 🙂


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