Last night I put the finishing touches on my Christmas decorations and lingered a few minutes to admire my handiwork. No, it wasn’t a Pinterest-worthy scene, but all the same, I experienced satisfaction. Fairy lights twinkled around the fireplace; the nativity and Santa Clauses were prominently displayed; the tree glimmered with crystal “icicles” re-purposed from a dismantled chandelier.
If all goes according to plan (does that ever happen?), this Christmas should be happy and fun. My daughter and her family will be joining us. I’m already picturing a chaotic Christmas morning when a toddler lays waste to my decorating efforts. And I’m loving it!
But in the middle of all this decorating and day-dreaming, my thoughts drift back to Christmas 1990. Even if Facebook had existed then, I wouldn’t have been posting about that one. A long, stressful year was drawing to a close. My husband had lost his job, and we’d moved to a new town. We were living in a rental half the size of our own house, a house still for sale in a sluggish market. My dad was going through chemo treatments for bladder cancer, and my brother was going through a different form of torture, a second divorce. There didn’t seem to be much to celebrate. And yet, what I recall most vividly about that Christmas was a moment of laughter.
My mother and I were sitting at the table discussing those annoying Christmas newsletters. You know them: We’ve just returned from vacationing in the Bahamas, our son is graduating from Harvard law school, our daughter is engaged to a neurosurgeon. Happy Holidays, Fullofit and Felicity Feelgood. My mom said she’d considered sending her own newsletter that year: Joe is undergoing chemo, my son-in-law is out of work, my son is getting a divorce...again. “That ought to cheer up folks,” she said. Then we started laughing. Laughing out loud. Belly laughing.
As we laughed, I realized that in the midst of all that was wrong, so much was right. We had been able to come together as family, we had plenty to eat, we had a warm, comfortable house in which to gather. And we hadn’t completely lost our sense of humor. While we might not have had all we wanted, God had blessed us with all we needed and then some.
The purpose of this post is not to brag about how good things are for me now but to offer encouragement to those whose Christmas might not be so “jolly” this year. Not all Christmas memories are warm and fuzzy. Not all Christmas experiences call to mind a Norman Rockwell painting. Deaths of loved ones, illnesses, family issues, financial problems, loneliness—all of these situations become intensified when it seems everyone else is celebrating. But even in the middle of our problems and woes, we can claim the promise of Christmas. Not a promise of a pain-free life, but the promise that God shares in our pain and will see us through it.
|I wish you and your loved ones a joyful and blessed Christmas.|