During the holidays, mishaps are prevalent as mistletoe.
I am an expert when it comes to Christmas mishaps; as a pastor I've seen Christmas gone awry more than a few times. One Christmas, when a blizzard unfurled, no one could purchase the elements for communion so we served grape Kool-Aid and saltine crackers. During a pageant, one third of the cast succumbed to a case of the stomach flu running rampant through the seventh grade. Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus, missed her cue because she was flirting with one of the tween wise men.
And that trauma was with the holy stuff.
Funny, that other people's mishaps are always a laughing matter. But our own? Well, sometimes they are barely survivable. Mishaps come wrapped in raging expectations, in-laws, out-laws, pent up germs, all-too busy schedules, limited financial resources and exorbitant sugar levels. Did someone call this the happiest time of the year?
Leave it to the writer of Gilligan's Island theme song, George Wyle, to write the Christmas Carol for all stranded on the desert island of Christmas expectations. George Wyle and Eddie Pola collaborated on, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year", famous Iowan Andy Williams made their tune famous. Given Williams' death this past September, this is a year to remember his song. But perhaps, we need to hear it anew. Let's set aside sentimental happiness and live into a deeper sense of his tune.
Hearing the song hundreds of times on the radio doesn't necessarily transform the least happiest time of the year to the best. We need the Griswolds, the Grinch and the Ghost of Christmas Past to release some of the god-forsaken stress we all feel during this season.
Amid all the mishaps, even the Christmas story, echoes our struggles: taxes, broken relationships, polarizing political currents, public humiliation, the stink of the stable, not to mention an unwanted pregnancy. All this drama tells a story that could be sung to a carol titled, "The Most Disastrous Time of the Year". Pull out the hot chocolate and gingerbread and we'll gather round and sing our heart-aches out.
Even Mary, mother of Jesus, asked, "How can this be?" Is it the mis-hap-hap-happiest time of the year? The circumstances of the Christmas story echo a definitive amen. Yes, there will be mishaps. When the Zhou Zhou pet's battery dies, remember all of us could be sleeping alongside real rodents on a stable floor. But, the Christmas story shouts above the noise of our lives and wind-up toys to show us the transformation from mangy mess to blessedness. Miraculously, instead of offering only mishaps; the stable, the signs, the star, and the surprises of the Christmas story radiate with that sung about wonderfulness.
Sure, Hollywood shows us that with a little blessed luck, our mishaps may be reshaped into some sentimental moments. That's why we love the family in "The Christmas Story" eating at the Chinese restaurant. We adore Buddy the Elf having syrup and spaghetti with his long lost family. We long for little Cindy Lou Who to grab the Grinch's furry green hand.
But the characters in the Christmas story reveal something that transcends silver-screen drama. We find courage in the fact that Joseph stood by his betrothed's side despite public opinion. When Mary says, "Let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) we find hope we might do the same. And when Jesus, the one who came to save our messiness and mishaps, is placed into the manger we see beyond the mess of our own lives to a new blessedness. These characters aren't undone by mishaps or happenstance.
While our culture makes claims for 'personal' happiness, this story reshapes that misshapen notion to reveal a happiness infused with something beyond self. This happiness, undeterred by mishaps, is deepened by the support we find in our community and our common hope to divide the sorrow and double the joy for all people this time of year. When that happens, I might really start to hum along with Andy Williams...It's the mis-happiest time...of the year...
For now, maybe we can find solace in each other's stories. Do you have a Christmas mis-hap to share? Well then, let it all out here. Hum, type, relieve a little angst... because, really, even according to the Christmas story itself, it is the mis-happiest time of the year and maybe that's not so bad after all.