We were shopping for school supplies at Staples this fall when Jed found the easy button. It’s from the Staples commercials: big, red, and labeled “easy.” When you push it, the button says, “That was easy.” Jed needed it to complete his homemade American Ninja Warrior obstacle course. On that TV show, the contestants slam a button with a resounding blare to stop the clock upon course completion. Many times a day, after Jed climbed the swing set equipment in our backyard, and shimmied up the doorframe in our living room, he would bang his hand down on the button, and the button would congratulate him on his success. All was fine, until the button started taunting me.
It started one night when I couldn’t find my keys. I’d looked everywhere. I recruited Ben to help in the search. At one point I said, “We cannot go to bed until we find my keys!” The easy button was in the kitchen because it needed a new battery, and in the tradition of every toy that needs a battery replacement, it started going off randomly, without anyone touching it. I was irritated, frantically searching the house, and the button kept saying, “that was easy, that was easy.” I finally popped off: “Shut up! It’s not easy! Stop saying that!”
Just last week, the easy button found me again. I was trying to hang a curtain rod in my house. I’m not the best at home projects. It stresses me out to say the least. I was up on the ladder trying to measure and install the rod without actually falling through the window. On the floor, Alex, 16 months old, sat looking up at me, holding the easy button in his hands. Then, he began pushing it incessantly. “That was easy, that was easy.” Maybe it would be for someone else, but not for me.
In the grand scheme of things, my frustrations were minor inconveniences. The keys had fallen from the table onto a chair. I should have hung the curtain rod a half-inch lower, but it works. I think most of us wish we had a button that actually made life easier. Instead, it feels like we often try our hardest to find the easiest path while constantly being reminded how complicated life is.
When we revisit the story of Jesus every year at Christmas, we often focus solely on the joy and celebration. We tend to glance over how difficult the circumstances were. Mary riding a donkey when she was nine months pregnant; Jesus being born in a barn; Joseph tolerating uninvited strangers who gawked at his newborn. Maybe these hardships are reminders that life is not easy, and even Jesus had a rough time throughout his life, from beginning to end.
In traditional nativity scenes, a star shines down brilliantly on the stable, an angel hovers overhead, and the baby Jesus rests peacefully in his mother’s arms or the manger. These comforting images among the hardships remind us that despite adversity, God is present. We are not alone when we experience the dark times. Family and friends serve as God’s support system on earth during our suffering.
I know that many of you, whom we cherish, have been through extraordinary circumstances over the past year or two. Life has not been easy by any means. I wish I had that easy button to make everything better. At Christmas, I want you to know my prayer for all of us: That during the worst times, you feel a bit of comfort. That, as life continues, you retain an ounce of hope. And most importantly, I pray you know you are loved always.