I enjoy Disneyland. Disneyland is square footage within a well fortified boundary. Within the boundary is magic; outside the boundary is Southern California. Southern California is less magical.
My family and I regularly travel to Southern California for the purpose of abiding within the fortified boundaries, within the magic.
There are six in our family, so the journey is costly. Multiples of six define our experience. Six on a plane, six in a hotel room, six each with a five-day park hopper ticket in hand. Each of the six requiring meals, beverages, snacks and souvenirs.
We have become skilled in the way we travel. We buy the right discount plane tickets, stay in the right discount hotel and pack the right amount of food to keep us from paying for multiples of six Disneyland meals.
Even so, our pilgrimage has unavoidable costs. There is an unavoidable cost to abiding within the magical boundaries. Yet we pay the price because we want the magic.
Preparing for Christmas can become a magic kingdom pursuit. We take our best desires, aspirations, dreams and expectations and try to turn them into a magical Christmas. With twinkling lights, evergreen trees and sparkling tinsel we attempt to facilitate an environment conducive to joy, hope and happiness. Through eggnog consumption, gingerbread house construction and gift giving we seek moments of happiness, contentment and laughter. And maybe, if we are lucky, in the midst of our family gatherings, candle light services and Christmas prayers, we find a moment of transcendent beauty and love.
It’s hard to build a magic kingdom Christmas. In fact, it’s downright impossible. It’s just too difficult to hem in the magic and construct the necessary boundaries to preserve the beauty of the season. There’s just too much sadness, anger and dysfunction; too much fear, loneliness and lethargy; too much sickness, poverty and desperation. No matter how hard we try, we can’t erect strong enough boundaries to keep the magic killers out.
I love going to Disneyland. I love abiding within the Magic Kingdom boundaries. But every once in awhile, the outside sadness ruins the picture. The distraction comes in many forms: a mother yelling at her over tired toddler in the que for It’s a Small World; a sullen looking father staring into the distance while waiting for a parade he does not want to see; and an angry teenager just being intentionally angry … obviously angry … angry for all the world to see. These moments draw stark contrast to the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
The Christmas season is full of the same contrasts. Joy to the World and petty fights with the in-laws, Silent Night and continual back seat bickering in the mini-van, Jingle Bells and “Go to Hell” as the door slams. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year blaring on and on and on to remind you that you are still unwed, without kids, and very much sleeping alone tonight.
It is very difficult to construct a magical Christmas. Yet we try, and there are moments when we appear to succeed. Christmas magic is far more fickle, fleeting and elusive than our Christmas movies and television specials would have us believe.
Thankfully, we have the first Christmas story. We have the virgin birth, the sacred star and the blessed Savior born. We have the frightened young couple seeking refuge in the hard hearted city of Bethlehem.
We have the impoverished birth of a promised Savior; a feeding trough for his crib, a shepherd’s welcome for his arrival. We have glory among the rubble, beauty among the fear, hope among the desperation. We have Christmas in all its transcendent glory.
Don’t give up. Christmas magic is not a place, experience or ritual. Christmas magic is Immanuel, Christ with us, the hope of glory. Christmas is Jesus Christ with us, inside and outside the boundaries of our magic kingdom expectations. Jesus Christ with us no matter how we feel, no matter how we fail, no matter how great the need. Immanuel, Christ is with us.
Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He is the light that overpowers darkness and the hope that overcomes despair. Jesus Christ is the life that rescues us from death and darkness. He abides with us, and He will be with us this Christmas season whether or not anything goes as planned.
Merry Christmas and peace on Earth to all humankind. … Especially to you.
“Live from Seattle with Doug Bursch” can be heard 4-6 p.m. weekdays on KGNW 820 AM. Doug Bursch also pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at 2407 M St. SE next to Pioneer Elementary School. He can be reached at www.fairlyspiritual.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.