Christmas and the mess we live in

There’s this really annoying pharmacy ad that plays at this time of year that starts, “It’s that special holiday feeling that happens every year.” Every time I hear it, I want to throttle whoever wrote it. Why do we set up these expectations? Why should we expect Christmas to be so much better than any other time of year? Life is a mess, for everyone, at almost all times, and when we set up these ridiculous standards for the Christmas season, it just makes us dissatisfied, like we’ve somehow been gypped of something we have a right to expect.

The mess is all around me these days. In my life, and in the lives of those close to me. Illnesses, hospital stays, death and loss—in some cases, the complete upheaval, the overthrow of all carefully-laid (and very reasonable, I might add) plans.

It’s the first time in quite a while that I’ve questioned God as to why. For those going through these frustrating, difficult and downright terrifying times, it helps not at all to hear platitudes like “God has his reasons.” Yet platitudes are all we have to offer. I want so desperately to be of use to those I love, and I keep butting my head against the brick wall of my own ineptitude and helplessness.

This morning, the priest talked about the contrast between the expectations we have for the season and the images presented to us in the readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, year A. You know the expectations: peace on earth, silent night, the angelic little baby (blond, of course) lying in a manger. And then there was today’s Gospel: “Repent, you @$!& brood of vipers!”

His take on the matter was that we often think we can’t be witnesses to the Kingdom, to love, to goodness, to the Gospel, unless our lives are in order, and we have things under control. Otherwise, who would ever listen to us? And yet, God often uses the messiest, most chaotic times in our lives to teach us and everyone else what He has in mind.

I suppose it’s just more platitudes, but it really struck a chord with me today.