As I was preparing for the Christmas Eve service a few weeks ago, I thought, “I want to have fun with this, and I want it to be different than normal.” I decided to write a poem in the style of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. While it was fun to write and to deliver, my hope is that my reflection at the end helped us all take our hopes and expectations off Christmas itself and put them onto Jesus Christ.
How I Ruined Christmas
Based (loosely) on a true story
‘Twas the night before Christmas, the kids were asleep
The presents were all wrapped and laid under the tree.
Bing Crosby crooned, the tree lights were glowing,
Inside it was cozy; outside it was snowing.
With glasses of eggnog, my wife and I sat
Wrapped up in our blankets on the couch with our cat.
I savored the moment, and I knew without fear,
Christmas was going to be perfect this year.
As I petted Bart’s back, and heard his soft purr.
I felt a small bump, and parted his fur.
“Oh no,” my wife gasped, as we beheld it with dread:
A tick dug in deep, all the way past its head.
My wife tried to tug it, but I held up my hand.
“Don’t break it!” I said, “I have a good plan.”
Upstairs I sprinted as quick as an elf
And got the rubbing alcohol down from the shelf.
“Let’s pour some on a rag,” said I as I did.
“We’ll smother that tick till he comes unhid.”
My wife held poor Bart while I pressed for a minute,
Then I checked the cat’s skin, but the tick was still in it.
We tried again for longer till his fur was all smelly,
But the tick was still as attached as Santa is to his belly.
Dismayed, we both thought of what else we could try,
When suddenly a box of matches caught my eye.
I said, “How about the red-hot tip of a match?
Maybe that will make the little bugger unlatch.”
As I struck the match brightly, I saw the cat jerk
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I think this will work.”
But as soon as I pressed the glowing tip on the tick
A thought crossed my mind that made me feel sick:
Is rubbing alcohol flammable?
Let me pause for a moment, as you hang in suspense
So I can prepare you for what’s coming hence.
The cat was unscathed in the end—he survived—
But our Christmas did not. So here’s how it nose-dived:
As soon as the match to the cat’s skin alighted,
I heard the sound, “woof,” as poor Bart ignited.
With a blood-curdling howl he shot into the air,
And before we could stop him, he streaked up the stairs.
The eggnog was spilled as we lurched off the couch
And halfway up the stairs, Bart came streaking back down.
“Is Santa here?” A child looked down and said.
“No!” we both yelled. “Just go back to bed!”
But the house was now filled with all kinds of commotion
And everything next seemed to move in slow motion:
The poor cat, still flaming, jumped onto the table,
And knocked off baby Jesus, the wise men, and stable.
He clawed his way up the wall, in vain for relief
And pulled down the garlands, and the holly, and wreath.
As I dived down to catch him, he evaded my grasp
Streaking like a four-legged comet as he passed.
When you cat is on fire, what advice do you need?
Don’t let him go near your Christmas tree.
We got our tree early that year, and by now it was dry
And as Bart ran right for it, I let out a cry.
Diving between presents, poor Bart sought some cover
And the flames on his fur finally started to sputter.
I thought, “What could possibly happen now?”
But then I saw a spark leap up to the boughs
Now three kids were watching, with three mouths agape,
As the Christmas tree lit up, and a singed cat escaped.
Like a reindeer in the headlights, I froze and just watched it.
“The fire extinguisher” my wife yelled, “Where is it?”
Then I saw on the counter a large bowl of punch
That was sitting there ready for our Christmas day lunch.
I grabbed it in a flash and ran toward the tree
As my wife charged in with extinguisher next to me
With a splash and a spray, the fire sputtered out
Bing Crosby crooned, and Bart meekly meowed.
As the kids gathered round like a pageant production
We collapsed on the floor and surveyed the destruction.
Our tree was half burnt, our presents all soaked,
Our cat was now black and our house full of smoke.
The fire alarm beeped, I panted and thought,
What about a perfect Christmas? Well, maybe not.
To top it all off—no surprise, with our luck—
When we picked up poor Bart, the darn tick was still stuck.
All you who want Christmas to be perfect, now hear:
That was how Christmas was ruined last year.
Have you ever felt like Christmas was ruined?
Maybe it was “ruined” by family drama, or bad weather, or stress. For some of us, Christmas isn’t full of joy and cheer, but a time that accentuates our grief.
Even when the holiday goes well, we often have such high expectations for Christmas that we feel an in inevitable let down when it is over.
Sometimes, don’t we think, “If only things could be perfect—if only we could have this special, happy time at Christmas, things would be OK.” I’ve thought that before.
The truth is, Christmas can never do what we want it to. Even if we have a picture-perfect Christmas, it won’t give us the peace, or joy, or sense of fullness and love that we long for. Christmas can’t do any of that. Only Christ can do that.
The Christmas story in the Bible is not about love, or peace, or kindness, or family. It’s about a person, Jesus Christ.
We heard it in the readings tonight: thousands of years before his birth, there were prophecies about him. In the Christmas story, he is the focus. Mary hears about Jesus. The angels announce to the shepherds that he has been born. The wise men come to worship him. He is the long-awaited Messiah, the King, the Savior, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.
So I say, enjoy the Christmas traditions you have. Savor the time with family you have. But if the holiday doesn’t live up to your hopes and expectations this year, remember that Jesus Christ will. He never fails. There is nothing you can do to ruin the truth that Jesus came as God in the flesh to be with us, to die on a cross to save us, and to bring us home.