I love Christmas. I love the magic and wonder of sleighs pulled by flying reindeer and gifts made by magical elves. I love baking and sharing those baked goods with Santa on Christmas Eve and with teachers and friends in the days leading up to Christmas. (And don’t even think about telling my kids anything negative about Santa. Seriously. Don’t.)
I love the miraculous wonder of God’s amazingly unconventional plan of a virgin giving birth to a son in the most humble of places. However, you won’t find a grown-up nativity in my house because I’m holding out for one where Mary is holding Jesus. I know, I know, they found the babe lying in the manger but I’ve been a new mom. I am certain once all these strangers arrived, Mary would have picked the kid up.
But this Christmas has felt like a struggle to be joyful. My mood has lingered in grey, matching the overcast skies as I tried to rally a smile and headed to Lucy’s 1st Grade Christmas program at her new school. She was so excited. I’d already tackled a band concert for Jarod and an orchestra concert for Kati. Alone I sat at each one smiling and listening and trying not to think about how the others were doing at home alone. Alone I sat trying not to think about the fact that I was attending alone. I tried instead to focus on how proud I felt of them.
Maybe it’s grief. It’s the second Christmas since he died. Last year I was in complete survival mode. Surviving Christmas was the mandate. Minimal decorating. Minimal baking. Minimal everything. Lots of tears. This year there are no tears. But one child has ripped at my heart. He wanted to know if he could write Santa and ask if Dad could join us for just one day. He knew it was a long-shot, but…. Oh the things I had no idea I would have to explain and deal with after Kraig died.
Maybe it’s the busyness of life that is keeping my circle of friends and family occupied. I understand. We are all trying to juggle holiday prep and children’s shows and baking and so on. But I am lonely this time of year.
I never understood how anyone could say the holidays made them struggle with sadness. “How could you be sad during the most wonderful time of the year?!” I used to wonder. I listened yesterday morning as a Christian radio DJ over-simplified, stating it was mostly people who did not understand the hope that Jesus brought at Christmas.
I fully understand the hope of Christ’s amazingly out-of-the-box arrival over 2000 years ago. The arrival of that tiny baby split history in half and brought radical love and redemption to anyone willing to accept it. Grace arrived that night under a starry sky in Bethlehem–God’s infinite grace and forgiveness. Wise men fell at his feet, offering gifts extravagant beyond anything Joseph could have earned in his lifetime. Shepherds were scared spitless by angels exploding into the night sky and singing incomprehensibly beautiful music that heralded the arrival of a king foretold centuries before.
I understand the hope of Jesus and the wonder of Christmas. But this year it is a struggle to feel it.
This morning I learned a friend’s mom had died, losing a battle with cancer. A flurry of texts amongst our circle of friends began planning how we’d support her during this time. My heart ached for her family, especially her kids, having a funeral during Christmas week.
Perhaps this is something I can take from my overcast skies—understanding. I can now reach out to those who wear a forced smile amidst the carols and who hide a tear in the shadow of Christmas lights. I know that sometimes this is not the most wonderful time of the year. That does not lesson our understanding of the amazing gift sent from heaven that we celebrate. But life is hard here on earth. Until we stand hearing the angels sing in person, sometimes Christmas is a struggle. Sometimes it is simply not the most wonderful time of the year. And that’s OK.
For the record —I’m not lost in grief this year. I plan to embrace the simplicity of making it magical for my kids and finding ways to reach out to others. Would you join me in offering hope and smiles to those around you without any this Christmas? Find a way to reach out with a hug or a gift or simply your presence to the widow, the orphan, the needy, the lost, and the lonely. Ask the Father of the first Christmas to show you where you can shine the light of joy this Christmas season.
Praying it is a Merry Christmas for all and a happy new year.