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A Hallmark Christmas?

a) The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
b) The first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.
c) The coming or second coming of Christ.

The Hallmark Channel has been on in our home quite a lot recently. Except for the news, I don’t watch much television, but as I walk through the house I pick up quite a bit on the plot of these Christmas specials. I say “plot” because there appears to be only one, which reappears in altered versions in each of the stories. Two impossibly attractive people are clearly “made for one another,” but appear destined to never complete the romantic connection that should be the key to their everlasting happiness. Amidst the joys, tears, and stresses of the holiday season, they circle and interact with one another, but the romance is always frustrated by some twist of the plot. Finally, the inevitable happy ending arrives as they embrace one another, the snow falls daintily upon their heads, and the joyful music plays. On the living room couch, tears are shed in the knowledge that this is the way life is supposed to be.

Except, of course, we know this isn’t the way life is. Most of us get seduced each year into hoping and even believing that this will be the best Christmas ever. And maybe it will be for you. But most of the time life gets in the way. People get sick or laid off. Loved ones die. Children prove themselves to be less than perfect. The little fractures that are a part of most relationships tend to erupt as the stress of the season intensifies. Schedules collide. What should be minor disappointments devolve into major emotional crises. On the radar screen of life, things that are unimportant expand exponentially so that it is difficult to distinguish them from things that are truly important. December is a busy month for ministers and therapists.

Most of us already know it’s not going to be a Hallmark Christmas this year. There are too many realities to deal with. But Advent invites us to view the season through the lens of another drama. It is the story of One who, from the very beginning, seemed destined to land squarely in the middle of all the cruel realities of life. It started, of course, with that messy little birth at an inconvenient time and place. It finished, or almost finished, on a rough-hewn cross, a half-life fully lived rather than a long life poorly lived. When one reads what happened in between the beginning and the ending, it was no Hallmark story, and yet this One had the remarkable knack of transforming the meaning of the reality around him. People followed him, changed on the inside.

Maybe that should be our Christmas wish this year. Amidst all the messy realities of life, are we willing to trade a Hallmark ending for a Christian beginning? Are we willing to invite Him to change us on the inside?

Rev. Don Underwood