I was just scrolling through Facebook posts recently when suddenly I remembered: I used to hate Christmas.
It's true. I did.
I was uptightly religious about it, too. When I was in college, from somewhere I got this bendy plastic, tall, skinny Santa figurine that somehow had just a metal hook where its head was supposed to be. I taped it upside down to a big piece of paper and put in big bold letters "DEATH TO SANTA" across it and taped it to my dorm door. The RA, somewhat disturbed by this, eventually removed it and refused to give it back. Apparently doing things like that to Santa in a Lutheran college was just too much.
I was against all the commercialism, you know. That's a pretty self-righteous position, isn't it? Aren't good people opposed to commercialism, after all? Sales, carols, decorations, people with no right to go about with smiles on their faces, thinking they can or should make other people happy... to me it was all so obviously a lie and hypocrisy. Bah. Humbug.
Buying presents for people just because they are related to you seemed so dumb. No one really seemed to ever know what anyone really liked, wanted, or needed. I mostly just wished someone cared in others months about what people liked, wanted, or needed.
Ok, the truth is I hated Christmas because it shoved all the pain of my life up into my face. My parents' divorce, the fact that my dad seemed to get drunk more often at Christmastime and terrorize us with drunken phone calls and arguments, the tense eggshell environment we all lived in as we all agreed to simply pretend these problems and more didn't really exist and never had. The isolation that grew thicker the more I was with people. The spiritual emptiness of it all, on what was supposed to be a profound Christian celebration.
I hated being a human being, even as a Christian.
And then, one night 22 years ago, that all changed.
God knows everything. He knows every pain each one of us faces, and He doesn't know it as if He read about it once in a magazine. He knows because He has been present with us while each one of them has happened. And He is our Redeemer. When we are finally ready to turn our hearts to Him and open them just a bit, humble ourselves, and ask Him for help, He rushes in.
That's what He did for me at a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in 1991 in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. I had an enormous barrier to get over, namely a carefully nursed hatred of all things Catholic. But that night He helped me hand over that hatred, and then He scooped me up and began whispering to my soul that He humbled Himself for me, became a human being for me, in order to redeem me, because I was worth it. It took 20 years for those whispers of that night to finish rocking my world.
Christmas awesomeness. Total redemption.
And today, I couldn't even remember the person I once was without conscious effort.