Faith Matters: Whatever is in the Cards, Merry Christmas

Pastor Shawn Hannon

My house looks like an episode of hoarders at the moment. Earlier in November we cleared out our attic in order to turn the center of the space into a spare room for company. From the entrance of the room, down the hallway, into the bedrooms, down the stairs, throughout the living space, and into the garage, the previous contents of the attic are stacked up everywhere. Old chairs and filing cabinets. Tubs of unused decorations and my high school sport trophies. Future hand-me-down clothes for the children and boxes full of photo albums. Piles everywhere.

The room will not be carpeted and finished until December 18—just in time for Christmas. Looking on the bright side, that gives us plenty of time to decide exactly what will go back into the attic space and what needs to go to make room. Looking on the realistic side, that means we still have 3+ weeks of clutter and chaos—all leading up to Christmas.

I wish my house were going to be perfectly decorated every day of December, but this year that is just not in the cards. Sometimes it is not.

There’s great expectation and pressure that can accompany the holidays. We want our homes to be decorated perfectly. We hope for tables full of dishes cooked to perfection that all come out together at exactly the right time. We want our family members to behave harmoniously. We want fresh white snow covering everything (but not too much snow and recently enough that it is still white and not brown from the road. And we want that light stuff—not the heavy snow that’s tough to shovel. And we want it to be just cold enough for that snow to exist, but not so cold it hurts to breathe. Did I miss anything?). We want all of our family members to come home, and we want everyone to be happy.

But some years, that is just not in the cards. Some years illness strikes. Others it’s turkeys that didn’t thaw correctly and end up getting everyone sick. Still other years the political unrest in the country works its way into dinner conversation. Some years we get more snow than we were hoping for. Some years our loved ones are celebrating with their loved one’s loved ones. Some years finances limit the number of presents under the tree. Some years Christmas feels more blue than white.

If this ends up being one of those years for you, remember Mary and Joseph were hoping for a hotel room and ended up in a stable but Christmas came nonetheless. In fact, Christmas is not less meaningful when it fails to meet the Hallmark standard, but the true meaning manages to come through even more.

All we need to celebrate Christmas is one simple hope: that God is with us. I hope your Advent season of preparation and your Christmas celebration of light are blessed. I pray you are surrounded by your loved ones and by the love of our God who breaks into lives in the most unexpected fashion. I hope your person, your home, and our world is full of peace. But even if it is not, I pray that you experience God working and with you in that as well. Whatever is in the cards, Merry Christmas.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

Previous articleParades, parties, and…?
Next articleHoliday Happenings at Ellington Library
Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.