I originally wrote most of this post in December 2014. I was still married; I lived in York in an historic home on a quaint street and homeschooled my boys.
Now it’s 2020, we’ve all survived a pandemic, I’m divorced and living in a condo in the city with my two teenage manboys and we’re employed or studying full time.
I’ve edited this post to reflect 2020, but I’m leaving much of it untouched.
Facebook seems rampant this week with all of our Christmas cards and family photos, our adorable children, and our awkward dogs. It’s honestly every year that we scrounge up matching clothes and pose for our social media community. And it’s truly wonderful to see all of us make it to December each year – especially 2020. But tucked between the Christmas tree sparkles are the other posts, the posts that bear a bit of soul struggles. The ones where we pause. One was a working mother stressing over her lack of baking and lack of cheer and just plain lack of being “enough”. Another was a shared article about a mother struggling with family Christmas cards after the death of a son. Another, a woman struggling to get through the holidays for the first time without her mother. Many, many posts of missing loved ones because of the virus. And prayer requests. Lots and lots of prayer requests.
It made me do a double take. We talk about the happiness of this season, with the wrapping and the presents, the giving, the acts of kindness, the children, the candy, the pictures, the Christmas Eve services and holiday pajamas. The tree. And popcorn. And good food. And prayers. And a cute Nativity set out on the foyer entrance table.
So when a person doesn’t feel that happy, that excited, that giving, that pleased with the whole red and green season, it seems wrong – unsettling. We have been taught that Christmas is a joyful time. Advent is the dark before the light. But Christmas, well, it is a celebration of Light that has come into the world. We should be Happy. Grateful. Reflective. Prayerful. Children should be cute. Adults, blessed. And if we aren’t feeling it, something is wrong with us. We aren’t getting it.
But what if the ones not in the mood are the ones that truly do get it? Christ did come, and we are grateful. But he came because the world wasn’t right. People were struggling. Darkness prevailed. It wasn’t happy, happy. And his birth wasn’t cute. It was painful and dirty and bloody. And the momma was most likely not quiet and pretty and the daddy was quite honestly, probably, feeling a bit overwhelmed at the destitute situation. And though Jesus was “the Light” in the world, the whole world didn’t get that memo the moment his head crowned and Mary screamed. Yes, screamed. In pain.
So those feeling loss and ache and emptiness and overwhelm and stress and anxiety and loneliness – They might be the authentic people of Christmas. Christmas is a hope that those feelings may pass. It isn’t some immediate solution. It is a hope. Hope for better. Hope for love. For good memories. For peace. For breathing without a boulder in the throat. For less ache and tears. For acceptance. For healing. Christmas is hope – and God’s promise. We know the whole story. God knew when he sent Jesus that Jesus would die a gruesome death. He was setting into motion our salvation and His sacrifice. Again, I am guessing if God was human, he’d have some conflicting feelings. Feeling overwhelming gratitude and happiness and a little buzz from the eggnog is a good and normal reaction. But so is the opposite. Those feelings are normal too. I feel comfortable saying that I guarantee God gets it. Those sitting at home not feeling the Spirit, well, that’s normal and there is Hope. There was Hope when Mary screamed, and there is still Hope today.