The gift of Christmas

I'm not quite ready to pack it up and put it away.  I want to delay the farewells to another Christmas season, to just hold on for a little while longer.  I sit near the tree in the quiet hush before daybreak as the lights throw strange shadows to the walls.

My love was planted many years ago in the gentle soil of my childhood, and now it has sprouted out all of these arms that reach for what I have grown to hold precious.  Christmas looked and felt different then.  It was very much about the presents, but even in the midst of gift giving I was learning the importance of seeing family and friends as something to cherish.

I look at the blinking branches holding steady the memories of years past; four pairs of ceramic booties with birth dates inscribed, cardboard toy soldiers with colored paper hats, foam wreaths with my children smiling wide between the glitter.  It is all haphazardly hanging.  It is all so terribly beautiful in its representation of life.

We sat around the large table on Christmas Day in a noisy tradition while we had our fill of favorites.   My husband and our parents, our children all seated in unmatched chairs enjoying the goodness of being together.  I look at faces, and swallow the lump that always finds its way into my throat.  It can't be like this forever.  A day will come when one of those chairs will not be needed.  It will sit silently nearby while we all feel the emptiness of its space.  And Christmas will change.

Every year I shake the melancholy off of my shoulders.  It always wraps itself around me when my thoughts turn towards those families that are already broken.  So many people spent this Christmas without one they loved.  This year has seen divorces and death, accidents and arguments, sickness and pain that only intensifies when one realizes that life will never be the same.  Christmas will never be the same.  My heart sags from the weight of it.

The world moves and seasons change.  Life must evolve in its own way.  We are born, we live, we die.  No one is exempt, and that makes us all a bit brave.  We can not feel sorrow if we do not feel love.  We cannot mourn if we do not first cherish.  We cannot miss what we do not hold valuable.  We hold onto what we can for as long as we are able, and the wise offer thanks because they know that these moments are not given because of who we are or what we do.  These moments are grace.

I think of the first Christmas, Christ born into the world.  A Father sends his cherished son to a dying people who are broken apart and barely hanging on.  His star shining bright in the darkness, a gift to those who can't see past the black of today.  Jesus, his life a sacrifice offered for us in great love to bring hope to a melancholy world.

This hope is not found in families that are perfectly together, nor in the promise that we will all be sitting around the table next Christmas.  This hope is in the promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us.  We are not alone in our loneliness.  We are not forgotten in our sorrow.

He was sent to redeem us.  He is here to save us.


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