I Hate Christmas.
It's quite ironic to watch those bloggers arguing about whether you should or shouldn't have a Christmas Day service. For me, the issue is can't whether we should or shouldn't have Christmas at all. Sacrilige! You cry. Blasphemy! Another cries. Hear me out. I think that Christmas touches at the heart of a desperate need in the church ... and that is fear of the single person. The last 3 years of my life have been the most painful and the most desperate in terms of the bitter reminder that church seems to be a place for couples and the family. And Christmas just is an intense time of a reminder of that fact - that yes - in the words of Cher - I DO sleep alone!!
And that troubles me, that Christmas has become a time to fear, rather than a time of remembering the original fact - the incarnation of Jesus Christ Himself. By and large the fact that I am single doesn't really bother me - in fact, I LOVE it!! I have the time to go and do exactly what I want, when I want. I can work as much as I want, I can play as much as I want. I can read as much as I like without being interupted to go wash up! And in that last sentance - I see the reason why God invented marriage - to prevent selfishness! Well one of them anyway. But seriously, with John Stott I do believe that being single gives you the opportunity to accomplish more for the Kingdom in some ways than if you were married.
It's not often that I quote positively from the world of SGM, but this blog by Carolyn McCulley really really blessed me and challenged me:
I first heard this remarkable lady at the conference John Piper held called; "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ". I was actually more ministered to by her message to single women, than I was by Mark Dever's for single men - he was a little harsh and blunt for me. She was much nicer but still challenging!
If you don't have time to go to her blog, here's a key quote;
"When you have a hope deferred, the holidays can be a bittersweet time. Unbidden emotions--grief, confusion, self-pity, sadness--can suddenly wash over you without warning. The holiday season can be like a landmark in time--"wasn't I here in exactly the same situation last year?"--commemorating the creep of time. That's the bitter part, but there is also the sweet part if we stand like a sentinel and look for it. The Lord has been faithful to each of us in so many ways, but they are easy to take for granted when our focus is the unfulfilled desire".
So yes, looking back - this time last year I was still single. But actually, and strangely this Christmas reminds me of how much God has worked in my life this year. It hasn't been a particuarly good year - in fact it's been one of the worst years of my life (if you think I'm being dramatic - post a comment. I'll email you a list of what's gone on!!) But despite that, God has been mightily at work. I can't blame God for the bad stuff. As McCulley so rightly says; "a merciful God should not stand accused by me". But I can and must give God thanks for His grace. Here's a few of the points that I'm thankful for that come to mind;
1. A family that love me for the black sheep that I am.
2. A Mum and Dad who I constantly seem to humiliate but who still welcome me home.
3. A wise and faithful older sister who has mentored me through this year and has been a shoulder to cry on as well as a rock to lean on.
4. The most gorgeous nephew in the world ... EVER!!
5. A warm and comfortable home - a roof over my head - and a shower that is powerful and hot and so great!
6. A series of best friends who have virtually replaced a wife. They have stood by me, they laugh at me, they laugh with me and I'm sure they laugh behind my back, they lended me money when I needed it, they hugged me when I needed it, they forced food down my throat when I was about 8 stone, they locked things away that I shouldn't touch, and above all are here at the end of the year with me! - I say again - my best friends - my family!! Who are the unsung?: Scott, Emma, Abi, Jude, Lou, Sarah, Christina, Myth, Steph, Jen and Rich, Pete.
7. The best job in the world that I love and adore!!
8. My health; mobility, thoughts, speech, hearing - all means of common grace that how often do I take for granted?!
9. My books - my heroes may be dead and in glory (apart from Terry Virgo - he still lives!! Glory!) but they still speak through the books they have penned. Therefore my home has become a somewhat nosy place, with them all speaking at once.
10. Above all - to the most gracious and loving and precious and wonderful Father that anyone could hope or dream to have. I can't sum up the way I feel about Him, better than the lines of one of my favourite songs; "You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same! You are amazing God!".
So yes ... Christmas will be tough I have no doubt. Like Jo from Little Women (I was raised up with 7 sisters - I HAD to watch it!) I will resent I'm sure some of my sister's partners being present at the table (I love you guys really!). But I am so grateful to Carolyn McCulley for raising my eyes from myself - and lifting them to a gracious God who still stands unchanging in His love for me through the passage of time.