I wouldn’t say I was ever one of those crazy Christmas loving people, but I definitely have loved Christmas ever since I can remember. As a kid it was amazing, for all the reasons every kid finds it amazing. Toys just appear under a tree…in your house. As I got a little older, I started to have more romantic ideas about Christmas. I would start the Amy Grant Christmas album, and I don’t mean the Greatest Hits – I mean Tennessee Christmas…it’s the only Christmas (album) for me, way to early and dance around the living room in front of the Christmas tree. I would wish a Nor-Easter would blow in just in time to make our rural home in NY a winter wonderland. I remember one junior high-ish year I woke up at like 3am and read the Christmas Carol cover to cover. Every year I wanted to experience the “magic” of Christmas. In my high school days, a week before Christmas I would realize I needed to start thinking about the actual “reason” for Christmas and would pour over the Christmas story hoping for some new insight about the incarnation to make me feel a more holy type of “magic”. But, every year as Christmas Day came and went, I went to bed that night feeling a little deflated. A little let down. A little disappointed that all that magic, all that joy was now all behind us.
Well, last year was quite a different Christmas experience. We were in the NICU once all the seasonal Christmas hullabaloo started and I knew the world around us was probably filling itself up with decoration and every store would be playing Christmas tunes, but that was out there. We were in here. Sure, there was a Christmas tree up by the nurses desks, but it sure didn’t feel like Christmas in there. I remember trying to re-create some sort of seasonal holiday-ness one evening as I planned to watch the lighting of the Rockefeller Tree and order up some hot chocolate from the kitchen down stairs. I just remember thinking, there must be something wrong with me as I was watching people dance and sing and smile and it didn’t make me feel happy, at all. It actually made me feel a little angry, but mostly just empty. When we got to take our sweet thing home we didn’t put any decorations up besides a few things my Mom brought up for us. We didn’t have Christmas carols playing. We didn’t get to go home to be with family and pass Brooklyn around from relative to relative. It was just the three of us. We did venture out to a Christmas Eve service where way too many people bombarded us with stories of their baby who was born a preemie or with some sort of abnormality and how their ‘baby’ was 17 years old now and heading to college next year. How do you respond to that? I wanted to say, “Well, that’s really great for you – unfortunately that won’t be our story. Merry Christmas.” Christmas Day was full of changing Brooklyn into the 4 different “My First Christmas” outfits she had. It was really hard knowing it would be her last too. But, she was beautiful in every one. In between one of her tube feedings on Christmas night we went for a drive around the neighborhood and looked at Christmas lights, and that was about it for our Christmas. I will never forget it because we had her, but as for the magic and the joy of Christmas 2012, it was weighed down with a lot of other emotions.
I didn’t know if I would ever feel the same about Christmas? I was worried the flashbacks, the sadness of not having her here would suck all the joy out of the season for me….forever. As Thanksgiving this year had come and gone, the decorations started to pop up, the stores had started to crank up the Christmas compilations, but I really didn’t know how to engage it all? The whole “Christmas Spirit” part of things felt completely lost on me.
And then, I started to remember Advent. This time of expecting, waiting, longing and I started to find my place. Longing, waiting, hoping now these things I can relate to. I live every day with these pangs. It started to settle that this time is for me. The watching, the waiting, all under circumstances that seem to only be getting worse and worse. It had been almost 1,000 years since the glorious reign of David and Solomon, but Simeon lived watching and waiting for the Messiah even as it seemed as though year after year promises were left unfulfilled.
I used to count down the days until Christmas and now I feel a little sad as we finish our Advent reading each night, knowing the days are getting fewer until it’s all over and I feel a little out of place again. But, the carols I’ve heard over and over and over again, have been sweetly whispering the promises for the future. And that Christmas doesn’t end with the wonder of the incarnation. The story goes on and the implications of that story mean everything to me. Most days it’s the only thing that keeps me from unraveling. The magic of my Christmases might feel gone, but comfort has come in its’ place.
…”Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King.”
May you have a hope-filled Christmas,