“Rrrr, rrrr, throw up has the rrrr sound!”
While I love my son’s enthusiasm for the phonograms he’s learning, I didn’t expect him to connect it to throw up.
But that’s about how our Christmas season has been. We were signing papers at the bank for our house when my three year old started throwing up in my lap.
Such is motherhood.
And such is this Christmas season for many of us.
We have great plans and things don’t go as we expected.
Where I live, many families are having Christmases that are less than they expected. Dads are unemployed or underemployed because of layoffs in the oil field. It can be hard to listen to the “good tidings of great joy” when we’re under that kind of financial strain.
And there are others who are having Christmas for the first time without grandmothers, daddies, or children. Others have families so dysfunctional that Christmas loses its appeal.
One sweet family I know is keenly aware that this may be grandmother’s last Christmas, so they’re making the most of it while they can. Another finds joy in taking Christmas tree selfies every time daddy gets chemo.
At our house, we have our little sixth stocking hanging up quietly, but no candy or toys will fill it. Poinsettias at the grave will have to suffice. I wish we were celebrating our baby’s first Christmas. You have no idea how much I would love to be exhausted from getting up with a baby all night long.
This is not what any of us planned for this Christmas, is it?
And yet when I think of this year, I think of how the Lord has held us. I think of His comfort and the peace He provided so many times when I cried out to Him.
Is this Christmas what I expected? No. It’s so much more.
I’ve always loved O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, a classic Christmas story. In it, newlyweds Della and Jim both sell their most prized possessions to buy a gift for each other. But without her lovely hair and his beloved watch, their new gifts of a comb and watch chain are completely unusable. To the cynic, their love looks completely foolish, but as O. Henry points out, these are the wise men of the world, these are the Magi. They know that the gifts don’t really matter, but the sacrifice of love is what is most important.
Many of us have had to sacrifice this year, and we didn’t even choose it. It was chosen for us.
And if Christmas is all about stuff, then yes, it’s what Dolly Parton calls a Hard Candy Christmas.
But if Christmas is about the birth of a baby, a baby born to die for our sins, then all of that is just stuff and nonsense.
We who have walked hard roads this year have seen the fullness of His love in deeper ways than we could have otherwise. We tend to forget just how good a God we serve until crisis hits.
Then we’re reminded once again of how many beautiful things He gives us–joy when we aren’t feeling joyful, peace when our souls are shaken, and love when our hearts are broken.
These are the beautiful gifts, not the presents wrapped under the tree.
This year, some of us have learned to hug our loved ones tightly while holding onto them very loosely. It’s all the Lord’s, the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Tim 6:15).
Advent is a time of waiting. We simulate the waiting of the world for the birth of a king, while simultaneously waiting for the return of that very same king.
We sing “Come, thou long expected Jesus,” and long for heaven like never before. And not just because our loved ones are there.
The world, with its toys, also brings along sin, sickness, and heartache. To the grieving heart, the ache we feel at this time of the year makes the world lose its appeal in light of our home and our Savior.
May we live the entire year out with this same longing for the Lord.