You’re busy and I’m busy so let’s keep this brief. The older my children have become, the more my Christmas has turned into a stereotype. Here I am, rushing from Nativity Play to Candlelit Carol service, waking in the night and pondering recipe ideas, and wondering where to hide yet another bag of Christmas prezzies.
– I decided to try making canapés for the first time – ha ha! I’m neither a 70’s housewife nor a wedding caterer, but I thought it would be fun. It was.
– I also decided to make Christmas cookies for my hairdresser and his assistant, since a) their mums are in far away countries and b) I thought it might cut through some of the intimidation I feel every time I go in. It did.
– Since it was my birthday, I also volunteered to make a giant, Christmassy birthday cake for our church’s Christmas party. Yum.
I decided to do all of these things in between Christmas fetes and Christmas parties and last minute shopping. And that’s OK. I had cheerful and loving motives. – but not entirely.
I had half an hour to myself last Sunday during a Nativity rehearsal, so I settled down in a nearby café with my Tim Keller book, King’s Cross. I’m up to the bit where he writes about humans deep down feeling inconsequential (or ‘unclean’), and all the ways they try to make up for that. There I was, innocently reading about how that affects Christian ministers, and I read something which unexpectedly had me weeping into my overpriced porridge:
You had assumed, ‘If people like me and say, ‘Oh, how much you help me,’ then God will like me and I will like myself, and then that sense of inconsequentiality… of uncleanness, will go away.’ But it doesn’t… I was reading Romans 1:17 in the following way “He who through faith is righteous shall live,” and I almost heard a voice saying, “Yes, and he who through preaching is righteous shall die every Sunday.”
Why did this affect me so much? Perhaps my man Timothy had put his finger on something. Or rather God was putting his finger on something. Maybe what I needed to hear was this:
“She who through baking and cooking and decorating the living room is righteous shall die every Christmas.”
On some level, no matter how many times I hear that my identity, my worth and my acceptable-ness are wonderfully found in Christ, I still want to prove myself. And Christmas is the season to prove yourself, isn’t it? I’m doing the Christmas dinner this year for the first time ever, and that’s an opportunity to bless my family. It’s also an opportunity to strive for airbrushed perfection of the supermarket magazines. But Eve Pollard made a good point in Good Housekeeping’s Christmas issue this year in her column about banning technology on Christmas day: ‘Professional food photographers spend hours making Christmas dinner look like something in an M&S advert. I don’t need some amateur Twitter-snapper broadcasting unappetizing snaps of my offerings to the world!’ (December 2014 issue, p. 61)
When I see Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman and the like on the side of a bus stop, I know that they’re airbrushed, crimped and possibly starved to ‘perfection’, and so it would be foolish and futile to aim to look anything like them. So why do I think my canapés are any different? Nigella’s Christmas book (where I find all, yes all of my Christmas recipes) is a useful tool, but I needn’t pretend I can make something that looks like her pictures. And that’s OK, because this Christmas I don’t have to prove myself. I don’t have to prove myself as a wife, mother, friend, sister or domestic goddess. I can’t make myself acceptable by baking or cooking or decorating the tree (we don’t actually have a tree). And I don’t need to.
So I hope you enjoy your Christmas, and most of all I hope you’ll be able to rejoice that Christ has made you clean; he’s made you acceptable; he’s given you value beyond your wildest dreams. Don’t measure yourself according to your own or others’ expectations. Measure yourself by this:
‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ 2 Corinthians 5:21.