The Matrix is one of my favorite movies. In the movie, people are kept asleep to what the real world is like by computers that are using them to their own benefit. In return, the people live in a virtual world that they think is real. When the hero of the story "wakes up" he finds that he is in the middle of a war for the survival of the human race.
This Christmas has given me a glimpse of that war in our world. Just like in the Matrix, every year at Christmas people go into autopilot and enter a dream like state where Christmas is all about falling asleep to the real world around us. Each swipe of the credit card is like an inoculation that brings a sense of euphoria and dulls the pain of the woes around us. It's about the gifts, the parties, the persona I put off. In essence, there is a force that seeks to "cheapen" Christmas and what this special holiday is really all about.
Why am I even thinking such things? What has me stepping back to take a different look at Christmas? This Christmas our family knows four couples who are very dear and close to us that are struggling with life and death issues.
One couple sits in Boston by the bedside of their 10 month old son who has never been out of the hospital since his birth. He just underwent another surgery to save his life and hopefully ensure a near release from the Hospital so that his family can return to their home in Charleston. Another couple struggles with a rare disorder in which the mother, who is now pregnant with their second child, is deathly ill and struggles to force down enough nourishment to sustain the life of them both. Before they could even enjoy the beautiful pictures of the first ultrasound, a feeding tube was inserted into mom, and will be the lifeline for her and her baby for the next nine months of nonstop nausea and the accompanying effects it brings. Another couple deals with the tragic and sudden loss of their son to a senseless death. And a wife is now at home with her husband and father of her two young children. He is in Hospice care now after fighting a long and hard battle against cancer.
How do you celebrate Christmas in the midst of such struggles, pain, suffering, and loss? Just like in The Matrix I suddenly see glimpses of the "Real World". I visit and talk with those families and I see the "real" Christmas. Because Christmas is all about struggles, pain, suffering, and loss. The true Christmas Story is full of examples of all of these. It is a story of war, and Christmas is the day we celebrate our ultimate victory over that enemy that seeks to steal joy, kill dreams, and destroy life. Christmas is when we celebrate the fullness of God coming to this planet to save our race. Through the lens of this truth, now things look different.
Because for every one of those couples there is now hope, peace, joy, courage, and the faith to know that they are going to be okay. They are "living" the real Christmas story. Instead of the darkness of the unknown, there is light. Instead of the hopelessness of unforeseen tragedy, there is hope. Instead of the unrest of anxiety, there is peace. And instead of the fear of facing insurmountable odds, there is courage. And the "game changer" in all of these circumstances is faith.
Do you feel that? Do you sense that thing rising up on the inside of you? That, my friend, is Life. Wake up! And don't let another precious moment with friends and family pass you by.
Because that ... is Christmas!