It just didn’t feel like Christmas this year, one of my children shared with me on the Eve of Christmas Eve. I went through the checklist in my head. Despite my disorganized state of mind, somehow we managed to pull off much of our Christmas to do list: cookies, cards, caroling, shopping, decorating, lights and more. Even though I didn’t have the energy and I struggled to find motivation, somehow we did much of what one considers Christmassy. The stockings are even hung by the TV with care. What was she talking about?
But as I lay in my bed this morning, I felt it too. It doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve.
Maybe it’s the grief.
Before 2014, I looked around the table at holidays and wondered how I got so #blessed. I knew I didn’t deserve such a Norman Rockwell picture. Sure we were human and flawed, and there were fights and drama, but at the end of the day, or year, there we all were. Together.
But the last few years, holidays have been different. Empty places at the table, broken hearts and disappointments have deflated those dream-like pictures. My husband and I named that year, “You think you know someone.” It seemed like we received crushing news so constantly that I began to cringe when the phone buzzed. And seeing the words “Call me,” on my phone felt like an omen.
After my daughter completed a job interview last week, I asked her if there were any questions she found difficult to answer, and there was. The manager asked her who she looked up to. After some thought, she responded, “I guess I look up to my parents. But more than anything, I have learned that the people you look up to will probably let you down.”
Not sure the fresh faced fast food manager knew what to do with that answer. And while it’s probably not on the Dale Carnegie list of, “How to nail that job interview,” I knew her answer showed a depth of awareness that most adults do not possess. I was as proud of her for her wisdom, as I was sad for the pain underlying the lesson.
My heart was so heavy a few nights ago. So much loss. So many friends grieving and trying to figure out how to celebrate when their hearts are torn in two.
But perhaps there is no more appropriate season to wrestle with the reality of suffering then Christmas. The world waited in agony for that one Person who would never let us down. Yet even as He came, wrapped in swaddling clothes, as the pains of childbirth subsided to bring Hope into our dark world, there was still more pain ahead.
Christmas is not about everything being perfect. It is about the complete imperfection of it all. The constant failure and disappointment of this fallen world and depraved people in it, perfectly confirms the need for a Savior. Christmas is about God the Father, breaking through time and space to offer salvation and hope through suffering and death. There is suffering, but through suffering there is hope.
If heartache is keeping you from “feeling” like Christmas this year, please know that in your pain, you have the opportunity to experience the true meaning of Christmas at a greater depth than most. Celebrating Christmas does not mean that you don’t grieve, but serving Christ truly brings hope in the sadness, peace in the turmoil, and light in the darkness.
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel