Advent has officially begun. The Christmas cards have started arriving. I must admit this is one of my favorite holiday traditions. It is wonderful to see photos of how children/animals have grown and to read what the year has held for our friends, especially those far away. Generally the letters are upbeat. One annual card tends to be more sober. It is from a family that has faced particular troubles, health and otherwise. In a handwritten note the wife/mother keeps us updated and the news is usually not good. Some might find this too negative while certain others believe that too many Christmas cards and letters attempt to portray ideal super-achieving families.
Years ago I was on the way to a seminar with a friend. In our conversation I reminded her that there were no perfect families. She replied, “Well, it sure seems like it sometimes.” Some face more obvious and numerous challenges than others, but each household has its share of difficulties, disappointments and heartaches. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Although it does not necessarily have to be in a Christmas card or letter, we Christians must allow certain people to know how we have fallen short. We should not put up a front that we have it all together. While authentic with everyone, each of us must discern when and with whom we will be the most transparent and vulnerable. Pastor Zack Eswine writes of “redemptive vulnerability.” This is about helping the spiritual growth of others by being honest about our own sins and struggles and encouraging them to do the same. It is not about cathartic venting or feeling the need to express ourselves. The apostle Paul spoke of a “thorn” in his flesh and said “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Referring to 2 Corinthians 4:7 about us as frail humans (jars of clay) having this amazing treasure from God Eswine says, “A clay jar without true treasure is of little use. It gets used but not according to its created purpose. It offers presence, but no hope. On the other hand, giving people treasure without acknowledging our clay jar natures, denies the redemptive work of God in his creation. It seeks soul without body. It’s Gnostic, not Christian.
Throughout Scripture we meet clay jars bearing the true treasure. Abraham teaches us faith but we witness his blunders. We read about Moses’ incredible triumphs, while seeing his fears, doubts, and cowardice. We know the great lawgiver and liberator never saw the Promised Land. We sing David’s psalms and marvel at his victories, even as we struggle to understand his sins and foibles. We read Peter’s letters knowing that the rooster crowed. We learn love from Paul knowing that he was once the loveless Saul of Tarsus. We learn from John, the ‘Apostle of Love,’ knowing how he once wanted to call down fire from heaven to kill Samaritans. And when Jesus comes, he comes as true treasure in clay jar body of flesh and blood, fatigue and sweat, tears and laughter.”
As we celebrate Christ incarnate may we share our joys and sorrows in authentic ways and allow others to do the same.