I love Christmas. I always have. You can look through my old blog posts of Christmas’ past and see just how much I love it. I watch old Christmas movies, decorate, and listen with nostalgia to Christmas songs. And every year I relish the moment when Linus tells Charlie Brown just what Christmas is all about.
This year is no different. I’ve listened, I’ve watched, and I’ve decorated. And I’ve loved every single minute of it.
But I’ve also cried.
I cry at each Christmas hymn.
I’m crying for the hope.
Last year I realized that I’d lost track of what it means to hope, what it looks like in day to day life. So I made this year about hope. I practiced hoping for things in my own life. And God, just as he always does, has come through and given me reason to hope. And He has redefined it for me.
But it’s not what I expected.
This year has been full of death, not in my life but in the lives of people I love. It seems every time I turn around I hear another story and witness pained eyes. I’ve watched others as they grieve over the loss of people they love dearly. I’ve grieved with them and held their wounded hearts before the Lord, asking Him “why?”, and praying for comfort.
This year I have watched other things die too. Things like marriage and love and trust. Things that shouldn’t die, that I never expected to see die.
This year I have struggled as I have watched others struggle with health and life and depression.
This Christmas will mark the first year some of my friends spend without a loved one.
It will mark a season of grief for others as they watch someone they love succumb to that slow death we call cancer.
For still others, it will mark a season of decision making – people caught trying to love their loved one well, even though it’s tearing them apart.
It will mark a season of depression for many, a season of just barely “getting by”.
Christmas has a way of bringing out all the Joy.
Christmas has a way of bringing out all the Sorrow.
Christmas has a way of bringing out all the “Feels”, so to speak.
And I cry.
I cry for the children we all once were.
I cry for the innocence that marked our childhood.
I cry for the childhood some of us were robbed of.
I cry for the wonderful things that formed each and every one of us.
I cry for the horrible things that deformed each and every one of us.
And I cry for the children I love, and all they still have to go through in this life.
I cry for the hope.
The hope that has kept me going, the hope that is the only thing that keeps me going. This year has definitely taught me to hope for things in my day to day life. It has brought me joy and filled my life with things and people I never knew could exist. And I am so thankful.
But this year has also taught me the necessity of hope. Because this world is dark, and harsh, and fallen. This year has reminded me of the necessity of a Savior, of that Hope for nations.
To know that one day the pain will cease, and tears will be wiped away…
To know that one day sin will cease to have any power at all…
To know that one day loved ones will be reunited in the most amazing place imaginable…
To know that one day innocence will no longer be stolen…
To know that one day love will no longer be polluted or betrayed…
That is hope.
Sometimes, I confess, I forget that I have that hope.
But then I hear the lyrics to songs reserved for just this time of year…and I remember.
And so, this Christmas, I rejoice and I grieve.
I cry tears of pure joy and tears of pure sadness.
I will enjoy this Christmas with my family, and my Emmaus family, and Brian, and Brian’s family.
But I would be lying if I said my heart wasn’t heavy.
And so I cling to hope and offer it to you.
“Oh, holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh, night divine, oh, night when Christ was born!
Oh, night divine, oh, night, oh, night divine!
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! Oh, praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!”