“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.” (2 Co 4:16-18 The Message)
I have a confession to make—I enjoy watching Hallmark Christmas movies. No one need convince me that the cheese is thick in these holiday flicks; they are nothing, if not predictable. My wife and I know each plot by heart. Hallmark seldom deviates from an expected sequence: lovely young lady seeks a promotion she thinks she wants in a large city (usually New York or Chicago), but receives word that she must return to her childhood in Smalltown, USA for Christmas. She hasn’t been home for quite some time. The reasons vary for her return, but upon arriving she is reacquainted with an old flame, or she meets a new one. Either way, they fall gradually for one another, but something from her or his past prevents her/him from fully committing to the relationship. As the two help to decorate for a Christmas festival or an old family Victorian that is up for sale, they find themselves in close quarters and angle towards a kiss, only to be interrupted by someone who breaks the spell. All looks as if this is a romance meant-to-be when one of them overhears something they take out of context, forcing the relationship into a downward spiral that the other does not understand. Then, in the crescendo of conflict, a Christmas miracle happens to resolve a crisis of monumental proportion, leading to disclosure of the relational misunderstanding, and the mistaken party madly rushes to find their true love before she/he trips the light fantastic back to the promotion awaiting them in the city. The movie ends with an embrace and kiss that suggests they will live together happily-ever-after; harmless heartwarming entertainment that doesn’t require full concentration.
What in the world may we glean from such surface-level holiday tripe? We are all either running away from something or running toward someone; some of us are doing both at the selfsame time. Christmas provides context to consider which of these two scenarios best describe us. Am I avoiding an undeniable truth that must be addressed, or refusing to concede closure to a festering relational wound that poisons every other relationship into a toxic web? A Christmas miracle of transformation awaits individuals who acknowledge Christ wrapped himself in humanity for them; He invaded history so we might know hope of an unearthly brand. No matter what I have done or left undone, a Christmas miracle of forgiveness is available to anyone who refuses regret and greedily latches on to grace.