Last week, I was asked to work with another individual to provide an overview of Kwanza at the Fatherhood Coalitions Holiday Ice Cream Social. I quickly sent an email back to the individual making this request, stating, “I actually do not celebrate holidays and know very little about Kwanza so I cannot take on this task.”
The day of the event, my partner in crime and I joked about how I stuck him with the job of delivering the speech on Kwanza. He asked me why I choose not to celebrate holidays. Knowing he is a religious man, I quickly responded, “No, I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness.” [p.s. no shade at them, I just happen to know they do not celebrate holidays]
The truth is I didn’t really know why.
Sure, I could say I don’t support capitalist holidays but when I really invested time into thinking about why, I realized it was because I come from a family of chaos.
Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE my family. However, when we get two or more family members in one room together, something is sure to pop off.
As I grew older, I started to dread the holiday seasons, rather than be excited because I knew I was going to have to deal with something.
This year was no exception.
On Christmas Eve, my brother was arrested.
This in and of itself was not traumatic because I’ve grown accustomed to his on-again-off-again relationship with the criminal system.
At 4:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, I woke up, after a “lovely” slumber party with two evil heathens (aka my nephews) and stumbled out into my sister’s kitchen for a glass of water. I noticed that my brother wasn’t in his room but figured he stayed out after work. Thinking nothing of it, I proceeded to binge on cable, catching up on all of my ratchet shows, since I don’t have cable at my home in Delaware.
A few hours later, my sister came downstairs to fix her 5-month-old son, who my brother and I call King Kush, a bottle and found me on the couch.
She said calmly, “Jeremy got arrested.”
Given the news, one would think both of us would be in a state of panic, or at least unease, but, again, this wasn’t our first rodeo. I asked for a second to fix some coffee before she went on to explain what happened this time. So here we are. Not even a few hours into Christmas Eve and shit done already popped off [p.s., Sorry for the language, Grammy].
So here we are. Not even a few hours into Christmas Eve and shit done already popped off [p.s. Sorry for the language, Grammy].
We spent the next few minutes strategizing. What do we tell the children? What do we do with his gifts? Are we going to be able to pick up his car out of impound? And the list went on.
Just a “typical” day in our neighborhood.
My sister decided we wouldn’t “ruin” anyone’s Christmas. Instead, we’d play along like Uncle Jeremy was at work since he was conveniently scheduled to work from open to close on Christmas Day.
So on December 25, we did the typical Amerikkkan, Christmas morning routine. Woke up at the crack of dawn, took pictures and videos of the kids opening their gifts, watched A Christmas Story and ate breakfast while the kids brought a new present to the table every five minutes asking for help to remove the unnecessary and just plain out Joe packaging.
While the kids played, I tuned into Tabernacles Christmas service via Facebook Live. With my ten-year-old nephews Ninja Turtle headphones on, I sat at my sister’s dining room table, ready to enjoy service, or as I call it, Sunday Breakfast in the House of the Lord.
Pastor Morton started the sermon discussed our Amerikkkan, capitalist tradition of going broke in the name of Christmas.
I wasn’t feeling the message because, as a fiscally responsible, cheapskate, minimalist, I stopped doing that a long time ago. I have, now, nine children whom I purchase gifts for and I was able to fit all of their gifts into one large TJMAXX shopping bag.
Needless to say, I didn’t need a lecture on fiscal responsibility.
After watching the live stream again, before writing this blog post, I took a different spin on his message.
Pastor Morton talked about how we give what we don’t have on Christmas. While he was talking about breaking the bank and going into debt, I realized what I gave– knowing I had little to dish out at this particular time in my life- was my sanity.
During Christmas, or any holiday at that, I give up a lot emotionally, preparing myself for whatever chaos is sure to come. I go into “emotional” debt just to, as Dr. Morton says, “spend all year getting out of debt, just to go back into debt the same time next year.”
I know, at this moment, I have very little to give to others, as I fight every day not to fall off this metaphorical cliff. Right now, my life can be summed up in one verse:
What I also know, at this moment, is that I should, but fail to actually do so, only give what I have. Or as my Pappy would say, “below what I have,” since he preaches living below your means.
As a helper, I will pour all of my water out into other people’s glasses without refilling my pitcher. It’s just what I do.
So while I pride myself on living below my means, financially, I need to learn how to stop living beyond my emotional well-being means. Which includes taking on the stress of the world, or at least the stress of my chaotic family.
I went on a tangent. I know. I’m good for that.
While therapeutic, it doesn’t quite get to the point of why Jesus was just as messy as my dear brother, Jeremy.
Later in the sermon, Pastor Morton directed us to Luke, Chapter two:
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Pastor Morton’s translation of the text was that Jesus was born in a mess (a barn) and the announcement of his birth was made to dirty Sheppard’s, who for all intents and purposes, were too in a mess.
What does this mean?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Actually… I’ll let Doc. tell you.
He said, “The message that Jesus was born came to dirty Sheppard’s walking around in their mess… while they were broke, they looked around them and saw the glory of God… even though they didn’t have money.”
Translation: We may not have everything we want but we have some of the things we want because Jesus was born.
While it’s easy to focus on the things we don’t have, especially during the capitalist Christmas season, by doing that we fail to recognize and/or value all that we do have; material or not.
Pastor Morton warned us, “You can get jacked up in your mind if you don’t look around,” and urged us to, “look around and get grateful.”
This is when it got good.
It’s also when I realized this sermon wasn’t meant for me but was, instead, given to me to deliver to my brother who is currently in a hot mess.
When you’re in a situation, like my brothers, and feel like things couldn’t get any worse, recognize that it actually could be worse! For you own emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, you must allow yourself to appreciate the good in all situations; messy or not.
I’d imagine it may be difficult for my brother to identify the good, knowing his current state, but at the very least, he is alive. As Doc said, “As long as you’re alive, use the breathe he [God] has provided you.”
To my dear brother, if I could tell you one thing, it would be that “Jesus was a mess too.”
If I could tell you two things, it would be that 1) Jesus was a mess too; 2) Like Jesus, you can and, through God, will come out on top.
While my “Sunday Brunch” is typically dedicated to my personal reflections on the sermon, I invite you, my dear brother, to reflect on a few important points that my Pastor made.
“When you look back over your life and you think things over- your good days and bad days- you will praise God for how good he’s been.”
“God don’t owe you nothing. You ain’t been that good. God chose to overlook the stuff you did and still bless you.”
“…Jesus met you right where you are- in a dirty place- and knows what it means to exist in a dirty place.”
“Even though Jesus was born in a dirty mess, there was a king in him…. No matter what you’re in right now, God will get the King out of you. And you will be blessed even though you’re in a mess right now.”
“God knows how to rewrite your resume. God will take his eraser and get rid of some of the stuff that you’ve done in your past and give you a fresh start.”
“You can outlive the reputation, stigma and labels they place on you. People forgot, in all of Gods glory, that he too was born in a mess.”
Last point: “In this season, God is calling for the greatness in you. Just because you started a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of your story.”
It’s time to write the next chapter of your story, Jeremy.
Let’s get to work.