As my screaming nine year old daughter sank her teeth into my right ear I had the thought that Christmas Day wasn’t going quite as planned. Like you, we had put much time and effort – not to mention expense – into planning this one day of the year; and like other Ozzie families we were hard at work experiencing Peace and Goodwill. My nine year old has Down syndrome, and I guess the excitement of presents and food and fizzy drink and visitors and sisters and lollies and rellies and lights and candles and bonbons and Christmas was finally all a bit much. We were sitting around the tree, opening presents, when our little girl taunted the puppy just once too often. Maybe even the dog had had enough Christmas cheer. The Puppy leapt snarling at my little girl, my little girl leapt screaming at one of several available big sisters, and I leapt (a sort of slow leap) to the rescue.

It’s not the first time we have had one of these awful ‘meltdowns’ and it probably won’t be the last. We know what to do; how to get her to her bedroom, how to endure the storm for a few minutes, how to look for the tiny glint of humour in her eyes that is the sign that she is wanting to leave anger behind and melt back into the giggling, affectionate girl that we know so well. And so a few minutes later she and I were comforting each other, nursing our wounds, and exchanging earnest assurances that all this would never happen again.

As a pastor and counsellor I have spent hours talking with people who struggle through Christmas. No one sets a place for depression at the Christmas table, but the black dog comes nonetheless. For those with grief in their lives, Christmas can be a too-painful reminder of loss. While most families thrive in the food and fun of the day, many find themselves forced together with people that they basically can’t cope with. But for me all this has been reasonably theoretical: my own Christmases through the years have been joyful, fun-filled family reunions.

But this year I spent much of Christmas Day in a wheelchair; and for the first time I felt just a little of what it can be like to have the Christmas Machine roll its wheels over you. I think Christmas works best for ‘normal’ people. In fact it’s designed by the vested interests of commerce and entertainment to fit snugly into the lives of those with the money, the good health, and maybe even the good fortune to celebrate ‘the good life’. From my new perspective, some 3 feet lower than last year, I have seen for myself just how intensely prescriptive Christmas is. It’s hard to shop when you can’t walk, and this continual state of ‘awesomeness’ is exhausting when life is uncertain. There are so many rules which must be obeyed. It seems as though every detail from the look of your home through to the tone of your voice has been scripted. But who made these rules? Who said that the celebration of Christmas should look and sound and smell exactly like this? On this one strangest day of the year we all behave the same way, do the same things, say the same words, and I have to ask: Why?

I guess you are expecting me to reveal my true identity and say “Bah Humbug!” about now. But I’ll keep going: I think that the Christmas Machine and the Message of Christmas are almost diametrically opposed. Christmas is so relentlessly external, while Christ is ultimately internal. Christmas embodies consumption, but Christ gave his body to be consumed. The sound of Christmas is loud, relentless, and brooks no opposition; Christ’s call is a still, small voice that is heard only by those who humble themselves before God.

Christ came for the poor, the lonely, and the heavy laden. Christmas has become a celebration of wealth, of friendship and the ease of life.

In the end I shrank back a little from the wheels of the Christmas Machine. The outwardness of the season has driven me inward. That’s not a bad place to go; and in the silence of detachment I was surprised to find a deep well of Peace and Joy.

9 thoughts on “Christmassed!

  1. Brad

    Hi Rod – I’m finding your blog immensely encouraging, deeply thought provoking and at times extremely humbling. ‘Christmas embodies consumption, but Christ gave his body to be consumed’ – perhaps the shortest but most powerful Christmas message I’ve ever heard. Thanks Rod.

  2. Patricia Tiffen

    Love it Roderick, bring back the quite, family days when Jesus was the only reason for the season,bank cards were not around, home made gifts were received with much appreciation and chicken and hot vegs along with christmas pudding filled with coins smothered in custard brought squeals of delight.

  3. Grant Lockart

    G’day Rod, Just had your blog forwarded. I remember you visiting me at Tamworth rehab ward. I was there following brain surgery that was supposed to stop brain haemorrhages happening again. I had to learn to walk with a wheeled walker. Last Christmas I had another brain bleed in the same spot and another two months learning to transfer from bed to the wheelchair. This time I ended up with an electric wheelchair as I could only use one arm. Is “bugger” your statement of the situation, or your wheelchair’s name? You know how names are significant in the bible! I like the image of being “Christmassed.” Even in the crowd of festivities and people, you see everything differently from your wheeled “throne”. I’ve been thinking about the Christmas Tree and its relationship to the Easter Tree, one has a star and the other has a rough sign etc. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which one is in front of you. But, thank God we have both!

  4. Andrew

    Roderick Allen,
    You have found your calling in life, and we are, and have been blessed to share and grow thru everything that has ever passed thru your mind and reached us verbally, and now in the written form.
    You are an amazing, thoughtful, considerate, & Christlike man Roderick, and while we are all on this earth have many different “thorns in our side” but you make it easier for many people to understand and walk with our heads held high while we are just visiting here.
    Love you mate,

  5. Zoe

    Finally I have worked out how to view these amazing words Rod and I will surely continue now that I have.

    You have highlighted the lost Christmas and I thankyou for it. In the midst of all the uncertainty you have truly found a way to make a difference, I will be passing your words of encouragement, wisdom and faith onto to all I can. We continue to pray for your health and your endeavours.

    Bless you and your amazing family.

  6. Hello Zoe, wonderful to hear from you and thank you so much for your encouragement. We are looking forward to that visit we’ve talked about one day! Hope you are all well. Give the man a hug from me.


  7. Gwen Harvey

    Hi Rod
    It’s been quite a while since we have spoken as I have not been to Wagga in a number of years and that was the last place I saw you.
    Someone passed your site on to me today and I felt very challenged and encouraged as I too have problems dealing with Christmas.
    Thank you for your thoughts.
    Your attitude reminded me of part of yesterdays ‘The Word for Today’: “Obstacles won’t destroy your vision, but your attitude will… nothing can defeat you without your permission; and you won’t give it. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control what you say and do…”
    Your witness is inspiring.
    God bless you and keep you through all the bumps and mountains you continue to face.
    Gwen Harvey

  8. Robyn Hibbard

    Hi Rod, I enjoy catching up on your doings through the blog. We all miss you and yours, Robyn

  9. Pingback: Of Presents and Presence « Rejoice!

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