My wife and daughters love the Nutcracker. They have seen it several times and get excited anytime a new version or rendition comes out. It is a yearly tradition in our family. Unfortunately, I find the Nutcracker to be dreadfully boring and a waste of time. I actually think I have made a reasonable attempt to like it. I even took my wife, Kim, to New York to see the New York Ballet Company perform it. It was apparently well done. Kim really enjoyed it. I experienced a good nap after intermission. I know I ought to like and enjoy it. I just don’t. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it, or don’t enjoy ballet, but for whatever reason I just can’t get into it.
I know that many people feel the same way about Christmas in general. The reality of Christmas is great and glorious, but our personal experience never measures up to our expectations. Most people who struggle with Christmas treat it like I do the Nutcracker…you know you ought to like and enjoy it, but you just don’t. So usually the solution is to avoid it as much as possible but work to have a good attitude about it when you can’t.
I think part of the problem is that many of us have unwittingly traded the biblical view of Christmas for a cultural one. We glamorize and sanitize Christmas to the point that the true reality of Christmas gets lost. The coming of Jesus was neither glamorous nor exciting. The reality was harsh and difficult. The problems and struggles that the participants of the Luke 2 narrative were going through did not go away because of the events of that night. And yet, the angel claims to bring the shepherds a message of good news that will bring them great joy. Maybe part of our struggle to find joy at Christmas is that we have begun to focus on personal or cultural expectations of Christmas rather than the good news that Jesus actually came to bring. I would encourage you to carefully read through Luke 2:1-20 prior to Sunday, and then ask Jesus to prepare your heart to be challenged and encouraged by the good news that is truly Christmas.