It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And the hardest. While the world is still recovering from the ongoing effects of a worldwide pandemic, many of us, dare I say most of us, are experiencing our own private pandemic- a loss of hope, fear and discouragement. It feels like so much has gone wrong so fast and we are left to pick up the pieces, rebuild, start over, start again after a series of unsuccessful attempts. Christmas beckons us to shout, “joy to the world”, “peace on earth” but our lips can hardly formulate the words as our eyes and ears are inundated with one story of tragedy and loss after another. And then there’s the personal loss of time, energy, health and family. Christmas can bring out the best in some and the ugly in others. Sitting at the table with someone you only can stand to be with once a year may be the hardest thing you do this Christmas. Or maybe, you are sitting across from an empty chair that frequently seated a loved one and their absence is felt more acutely this time of year.
My year was marked by the joy of the newest addition to our family and the passing of my last surviving grandparent. I had hoped to introduce my children before their passing and bridge the gap between the stories of the generations before mine and have a deeper understanding of my family of origin. As I was in the throes of postpartum, the news of their passing came to me as an unwelcome messenger that the hope that I had of connecting to my roots was not to be. It was its own kind of grief because what I had hoped would be a journey of discovery and connecting the dots to my own story was upended by death.
One of my favorite renditions of ‘Mary Did You Know?’ by the ensemble Pentatonix came on Pandora the other day. The sweeping melody and vocal arrangement by the group were a welcome reprieve from my thoughts as I contemplated what is now known of this year and what is yet to be in the coming year. But this time, it was the lyrics that caught my attention. One line in particular captured me: “when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God”. Here I am, with a nursing child doing all the very same things Mother Mary did. She had no idea what was coming. Yes, there would be tragedy. Upon Jesus’ dedication at the temple, she was told that “a sword” would pierce her own soul, too. But, there was also a joy coming that no one could take away from her. She believed that despite all the hardship, tragedy and loss she would experience as the Mother of Jesus, she held on to a true hope that was greater than any sorrow, any loss or brokenness she would experience.
I believe that this is not the end and there is a joy coming that no one and no thing can take away. Despite the loss and sorrow you may be feeling this time of year, lean into the promise of Christmas. That the Child Jesus, born that very first Christmas, was prepared to suffer alongside us and pay the ultimate price. So, even when our hearts can’t find joy, His loving invasion of earth would bring us freedom, joy and true peace on the inside that is not disrupted by our present circumstances. The hope of Christmas is that sorrow and loss and discouragement do not have the final say. That what we don’t know yet will be more glorious than we can imagine if we lean into the truth- the person of Jesus, who He is and what He did. His hope in our hearts makes sitting at the table with a difficult family member this Christmas worth the effort, His joy serves as a reminder that the day is coming when all sadness , tragedy and death will be swallowed up by life and His love melts away the fear of the unknown and being known, that as I am and as I will be, I am loved by Him and His love transforms me.
So this Christmas, lean in. Lean into the reality that what we are experiencing now is not the end. Joy is coming. Peace is coming and one day all sad things will come untrue. Our pain, our sadness wants to mark us and tell us that this is who we are now. But when we lean into Jesus of Christmas, we find that the story is still being written and the end thereof will be joy and never ending love. Let this Christmas find you brave in loving difficult loved ones, giving without fear, sharing and showing care to the lonely, the orphan, the widow and widower. To help you along, listen to my Christmas project O Holy Night and download. Let the message of Christmas renew your mind and renew your hope. Lean in. It’s going to be a very merry Christmas.