I love Christmas, but unfortunately this Christmas is not starting out all that well. I started back to work part time so I’m spending most of my free time (free= time awake, with a brain worth working with that doesn’t involve my children) getting back in the grove of working from home and scrambling to find babysitting so I can get into the office sometimes too. There are all of the usual Christmas activities. Cutting down the tree, decorating the house, purchasing gifts, designing photo books for long distance family members, baking cookies. But this year there is a certain lack of joy in the festivities, and I don’t like it.
Every year I promise myself that I won’t let the busyness suck me dry of joy and usually fail at least a little bit. The peaceful, laid back, but beautiful Christmas I had planned in my head is fast fading before my eyes. My son and daughter can barely make it through a Sunday morning church service, why do I think they will magically behave angelically on Christmas Eve amid flickering flames, delayed bedtimes and holiday excitement?
My son doesn’t say many words and spends most of his days screaming at me in syllables I can’t comprehend. I try to speak calmly and use the signs we’ve practiced, hoping he will respond in kind. It rarely works.
My daughter, precocious as she is, is making lists of Christmas wants along side her usual daily demands. I know there is a sweet little girl in there somewhere (or so her Sunday school teachers tell me) but I don’t know if she’ll materialize on Christmas day or if the greedy Xmas brat will emerge instead.
My grandmother is continually unwell, and the undecided fate of her soul weighs heavily on me. If I sound dramatic it’s because right now it feels that dire. She barely believes in God and as she slips through her twilight years, losing more and more of her independence I find it hard to hope that anything will change. But if I had a deepest Christmas wish it would be that she finds the love of Christ and her hope is restored.
This was supposed to be a time of peace and joy. But if I look at the Christmas story, it certainly wasn’t an idyllic scene. An unwed mother, and her fiancé return to his hometown to be counted in a census. The travel and lodging was at their own expense even as their oppressive government counted them so they could be taxed. But when they arrived, there was no lodging to be had.
A baby whose birth and background would be suspected by many, was delivered in an animal shelter and placed in a feed trough. He was nobody. While I love Christmas carols, I don’t think we can take the lines about calm and peace literally. What was peaceful about this? An occupied nation. An oppressed people. A potentially illegitimate child. But even as he lay among the animals, he was recognized. A prince among the poor. A God placed into the mortal. A comforter in the chaos.
He brought hope to shepherds, astrologers, old men and young zealots. That hope is available still. Even as my little crazy ones sleep (oh, thank God it’s finally nap time), and I write these words, I can feel the calm begin the warm my insides. I pause and breathe it in. It doesn’t have to be calm and bright on the outside for me to feel it on the inside.
I know I’m not the only one who is struggling this holiday season. There are many others who have worse problems than I. But as we move through these stressed filled days, I hope you can hold onto that peace. The knowledge that the blessed child in the manger is there no more, but sits in heaven interceding for us.
I pray that wherever this Christmas season may find you, that His hope finds you as well.