How many people put "spiritually bankrupt," "mentally compromised," or, "physically vulnerable" at the top of their Christmas list? What do the ornaments on the Christmas tree say about our family? What about "good tidings of great joy to all people"? Does that ring true for us, or is Christmas more often a time of great devastation and chaos?

How often are the twelve days of Christmas punctuated by heartbreak?

Does that mean we should eliminate Christmas altogether? Would it be best if everyone were freed from a holiday that's bowed over by the weight of so many expectations? Are the demands of Christmas too much for anyone to carry? Does their claim on us ruin the actual purpose and goal of Christmas, to celebrate the birth of our Savior?

Whether we celebrate the good tidings of Jesus' birth or surrender ourselves to the holiday chaos, Jesus comes to claim all of us. The man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, befriends us in our most zealous praise and our most heartbroken state.

How often are the twelve days of Christmas punctuated by heartbreak?

Christmas isn't a time to worry about whether we must celebrate what's gained by Jesus' birth or mourn what we fear to lose of ourselves. Instead, the holiday embraces all of who we are in thought, word, and activity, and calls us into God's house to celebrate the One who was born to carry all our sorrows.

Jesus embraces the nostalgia, false expectations, and emotional exhaustion we try to avoid during the holiday (because we don't want to confront those parts of ourselves). He calls the whole of us to come and hear the good news about himself that, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you" (Jer 31:3).

Likewise, the family and friends we can't face for fear they'll break our heart yet again, God declares, "I led them with cords of kindness, with ropes of love; I lifted the yoke from their necks and bent down to feed them" (Hos 11:4).

What we imagine are the most unnatural parts of Christmas, relationships, and traditions that have little or nothing to do with Jesus' birth, Jesus claims for himself in the miracle of the virgin birth. Our God doesn't avoid the flesh and blood reality of life. He's born to embrace all of it, even the stuff that doesn't appear to have anything to do with his birth.

Jesus isn't just "the reason for the season." He's the reason we don't have to cross off "spiritually bankrupt," "mentally compromised," and "physically vulnerable" from our Christmas list. He's the reason we don't have to get frazzled about Christmas, temper our expectations of the holiday, and accept the limitations of our fears and anxieties about pulling off the perfect Christmas party. He's Emmanuel, the God who is with us always. The One who calls us his beloved. The Savior who is born to crucify our sin-inflicted sorrow so that God can bury our pain and grief in a tomb about a twenty-minute walk from downtown Jerusalem.

Jesus isn't just "the reason for the season." He's the reason we don't have to cross off "spiritually bankrupt," "mentally compromised," and "physically vulnerable" from our Christmas list.

This is the subtext of the good tidings of great joy we sing at Christmas-time. The backspin of the proclamation that "unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." Our wonderful Savior is born to embrace all of us - even our devastation and chaos - in his grace and truth.