It was laying there in the grocery store parking lot, and I started imagining the story of its existence. But then, I realized the crumpled beer can wasn’t the important part of the story. So I started imagining the story of the person who threw down the can…
This Christmas Eve on my way home from work I stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few last minute essentials: napkins, batteries, hummus. Stuff like that. (And I’m not kidding about the hummus. It’s one of life’s essential pleasures.)
Anyway, when I got out of the car, there was this Coors Light can parked in the space next to me. Then, this full-blown Christmas Analogy appeared in my head and heart. You see, I know people who are pretty well described by this crumpled beer can: bright and shiny on the outside. Decorated with the most attractive designs marketing can create. Once full, now empty. Teasing with pleasure to come, but now crushed. Once worth buying. Now used. Now thrown away. Now forgotten.
At Christmas, we have this hyped-up expectation of peace, joy, love, and happiness. Sometimes, the contrast between our Christmas ideal and our Christmas reality is just too much to bear. We feel like that crushed can. At least, we do if we suspend disbelief for a moment and assume that the can has feelings. Which it probably doesn’t. But, work with me here. Just go along for a moment, okay?
So, it’s Christmas, and the world is walking right by you in the parking lot. Everyone is busy and has someplace to be, and someone to be with. But you’re watching all this, and remembering good times in the past, and thinking times will never be good again.
May I make a suggestion? If you read past this line, I’ll take that as a “yes.”
I would like to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Christmas isn’t about your feelings. Christmas is about Jesus entering our empty, crumpled world, and filling it with purpose, meaning, and new life. Jesus, when he was a little older, said that he didn’t come to be served, but rather, he came to serve others. He showed us a life of service, sacrifice, and uncompromising love. And then he said this crazy thing: “Follow me.”
We celebrate the birth of Jesus, yes. But we celebrate it in a distorted, misguided way if we celebrate it in order to feel good. We celebrate the birth of Jesus because – wait for it – because now, at last, we can have a sense of purpose. Jesus has shown us the way to live a life worth living.
You can’t un-crumple a can. But God can. Jesus came for precisely this: to heal, to mend, to make whole, to set free. He can take the dents out. And, miracle of miracles, he can fill you again. He fills you with something he described as Living Water. It’s a spiritual truth, and Jesus called it living water because there’s really no way in the physical universe to adequately describe it. But it’s even better than beer.
Will you pray this prayer? Father, I’m empty and crumpled, but I long to be useful again, to have purpose again. I choose to follow your Son, Jesus, in a life of love and service. Open my eyes to see, really see, the people around me, and how I might heal them by obeying you. Use me as you see fit. I’m yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.