I didn’t see it coming either. You tried to hide your tears but the disappointment slapped you sideways and that sweet bottom lip quivered sad and angry.
‘I knew it!’ you said, like all the magic had drained from the world, ‘Father Christmas isn’t real!’
Well, here’s the thing.
I’m all grown up and still setting out snacks for him come Christmas Eve because I love the sparkle and thrill of the legend. But really, no tinsel or tree compares to the magic of a King whose crown of thorns glittered splendour that split history in half.
And another thing.
I wish it weren’t so but there’ll be bigger disappointments in life than realising the guy who showed up to ho-ho-ho bearded at nursery school once was just someone’s dad. But the radical relief is that your Heavenly Father never disappoints and your wildest dreams will short circuit in the contemplation of his plans for you now and in eternity.
And that’s Christmas. It’s lifting our heads to shrug off what’s heavy and see hope rising. It’s remembering that pinning our expectations on people sets them up for failure because none of us can deliver what only the coming King promises: fathomless love, life and peace.
The fake-Father-Christmas revelation rolled in unexpected the same day you were looking for your cousin on the playground. Another small blonde someone hurtled past in plaits – you called out – it wasn’t Meagan – and you were all cringing awkward – eyes blurring with more than regular visual impairment. ‘I wanted the ground to swallow me in mortification!’ said your six-year-old self, because sometimes melodrama is how you roll.
Which gets me onto another thing about Christmas.
It’s always been about character, not comfort. The ultimate story that plays out year after year dressed up like shepherds in dish cloths reminds us that we hardly have room to be embarrassed about anything much if God wasn’t embarrassed to arrive on Earth in frail skin and filth. You and me both, boy, we’ve got to get over ourselves – get over the blushing uncertainty. Because for better or worse, we’ll never control the reactions of others. But for sure, we can control our own.
There’s an ancient promise that burst starry over Bethlehem that first Christmas:
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)
And every Christmas since has been a chance for new things. Because every Christmas is the cure for disappointment and discomfort – the closure on defeat. Every Christmas is our chance to leave sadness and setback at the feet of the King in the beautiful wrappings of surrender.
All my love
. . .
You could also fill a stocking or two this Christmas by picking up a copy of Dragons and Dirt: The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires, on Amazon or Kalahari, or right here on dalenereyburn.com through PayPal or Postnet. Half the proceeds of every book sale will go towards Botshabelo’s Preschool Teacher Training Programme in Olievenhoutbosch and other under-resourced communities in Gauteng. Because really, we can change the world.