She kept saying that she was making things beautiful. This is the first year she has actually been able to really help. Only one ornament broke. She was so excited to be a part of what we were doing. So now, the tree is up. And lit. December is here. And we forge ahead, into the end of the year, as new moments and memories, still unrealized, wait to join our rituals.
Lights, warmth, company, food, laughter, presents, memories, hope and good wishes. These are the images that march through our minds when we think about Christmas – in our non-cynical moments. These are the feelings we crave and hope for each year. And these are also why holiday seasons are hard when our memories are not all happy, when health has broken down, when loss is a gaping hole in our hearts, when our expectations are violated, leaving us sad and empty.
It’s fairly easy to remember Christmastime as a pleasant part of childhood. But as we age and life breaks on us like waves on the sand, it can be harder to conjure the feelings of hope and joy that are scrawled across cards and commercials. Conflicted feelings of happiness and anxiety, hope and fear fight and battle for the seat of honor at our table.
But why, despite loss, life, and harsh reality’s glaring presence, are we still drawn to the Christmas season?
Because in the darkest season on Earth, light came. Because in our sickness, a physician who heals wholly, completely, came. Because on the coldest night, there is warmth for the heart. In the middle of isolation, there is acceptance. In our loneliness, we are made the friends of the eternal God.
Because in our losses, a Father suffers with us, because He too, once gave and lost – so that we could be His children. Because with our isolation, Christ remembers that a baby born in a manger was left alone, to die under our sin, so that we would be free from the darkness, the cold, the emptiness, the violated expectations in our lives.
The expectation of future joy and peace replace the holes left by the need of grace and redemption. And, while some see the activity of the Christmas season as superfluous, we must see it as the mirror of a beautiful redemption.
We make beauty around us because our Creator is beauty and His creation cannot resist following His lead. In our deepest, farthest, almost unknown places of our souls, we crave everything that Christmas brings. We crave purpose and meaning and belonging. Those are gifts found only through Christ.
We watch the brilliant Christmas lights as they shine into the dark wintery nights. We crave light. We crave beautiful light that will open our hearts and make us know what we want and who we are meant to be. We long for our Creator and Father, our Redeemer.
As the trees go up and the decorations multiply and the music cheerfully lilts, find the beauty of Christ in the shimmering and the sparkling. Watch the lights shine across miles of shops and homes and landscapes and take comfort that no matter what memories of Christmas surround you and no matter what dread encloses you, there is peace from the Prince, promised and complete, propelling us through the cold darkness, to a warm Spring, to resurrection power and glory.