Several times during the past few weeks, we have spent time watching movies on the Hallmark channel. All of the Hallmark movies have similar plots. Good people struggle with ordinary problems. Misunderstandings make finding solutions complicated. Eventually, conflicts are solved with skill rather than violence. Relationships are saved. A fine young woman marries a decent man.
In the end, goodness always wins. If all of this sounds a little sappy, well, it might be, but that's the way we like it. We enjoy stories without violence and we are relieved to hear dialogue without expletives. The real world is a lot messier, but we want to live in a Hallmark world, especially at Christmas.
A few years ago, we tried to have our own version of a Hallmark Christmas. As many of our grown children as possible came home for an early celebration. Instead of changing planes in Chicago, our son-in-law's flight from California had to be rerouted through Dallas because of a snowstorm in the Midwest. The flight took 16 hours instead of six. He finally arrived, tired and hungry, just before midnight.
Getting 12 of us around the dining room table is a difficult feat for our far-flung family. The Christmas meal took a long time, but the two babies, tired at the end of the day, did well in their high chairs until dessert.
Baby James liked order, peace and quiet and all of these were scarce at the moment. With too many people and so much noise, he had a typical, good old-fashioned 2-year-old meltdown. We gave him whatever he wanted; I think it was more dessert.
At the time, we lived in a 100-year-old house. The next afternoon, the plumbing gave way and water overflowed in the basement. Undaunted, all of us went to a wonderful party at church that night, just as we had planned, but not one of us could take a shower, or even wash our face before we went. We were grateful for the restrooms at our nearby parish church.
We introduced our family to our friends while trying not to get too close to anyone. The plumber arrived the next morning and quickly cleared out some tree roots that had clogged the drain pipe in the yard. In spite of the inconvenience, all of us had a wonderful time and decided this was the best Christmas ever because, no matter what happened, we were together.
So much for recreating a Hallmark Christmas story, but then again, a picture-perfect Christmas isn't the point, is it? Christ wasn't born into an upper-class Jewish family in a fine home in the best section of Jerusalem.
From the beginning, there were problems. The young couple even had to flee the country to save the life of their child. In fact, most of the stories in scripture never were Hallmark stories, except in one respect. From the beginning we know how the real story ends. This baby lives and, because He lives, it is only the beginning of his story, and of ours.