Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Year I Lost My Christmas Spirit

I've always loved Christmas. It also happens to be my birthday, so for all the reasons non Christmas-babies love their birthdays and love Christmas, I love it all in one day.

I remember saying once, "well, if all else fails, there's always Christmas to look forward to." I remember creeping down the stairs to curl up underneath the tree many mornings of the month of December, and always wanting to be the first one awake Christmas morning so I could creep downstairs and see the transformation. We were an "all presents appear magically" sort of family.

I don't remember when I realized Santa wasn't real, but I know it didn't bother me - because what I believed in him to be true, remained. That there is goodness in the world, and kindness, and generosity, and yes, even a little bit of magic.

But this year, I've had no Christmas spirit or sense of magic. The month started with phone call after phone call from people battling illnesses, faced with unexpected surgeries, divorces, difficult work moments, car accidents, premature babies fighting with every literal ounce, couples desperately wishing they would conceive, broken hearts...

And then the month went on, and my littlest got a terrible cold, and then she got lice, and then she had an allergic reaction to the lice treatment oil, and then she missed days of school. We seemed to rally Friday of last week, shipped the kids off to my brothers so my husband and I could have 24 hours kid-free, and then woke up Saturday morning to a house 45 degrees. One week later, I can tell you it's a super expensive broken furnace, and finding dry firewood in the Pacific NorthWest in December is sort of like going Black Friday shopping at 5pm and expecting to still find a good deal.

It's been an unbelievably discouraging month - I've thrown my hands up in the air just a few times, muttering about Decembers ungraceful exit after an exceptionally ungraceful year. "I get it, 2016, you had a bad attitude, through and through. Just wrap it up, already."  And I've had a good number of cries, too. Rather than this season being full of the magic and anticipation I'm so used to, I've instead found myself rallying every day to try and keep the magic & anticipation for my children, while somehow not glossing past the reality of what feels like a much harder season - not just for me (and a furnace is a small thing, in all truth), but a hard season for many.

I don't blog a lot about what my "religious beliefs"  are- if you want a religious blog with lots of scripture references, there are many. But, a lot of people are done with scripture references and Jesus talk, and frankly, I don't blame them. I talk about the truths that guide my life, and the lessons I am learning, and the hope I have in tomorrow to be better than today - and I could say (accurately) they are based in my "religious beliefs", but that somehow cheapens them.

But, what I will say is this. This year, in the year I lost my Christmas spirit, I am unbelievably grateful for the message of Emmanuel. We've almost ruined that word, too, tossing it around on greeting cards & loud proclamations instead of whispering it with breathless wonder. It should fill us with breathless wonder that the divine decided to interlace itself with bits of hair & skin.

This year I'm clinging to God with the fierce premies
with the new cancer patients
with the families waiting by hospital bedsides
with families buying caskets for too young sons taken too soon
with the broken hearted, smiling outside for everyone else's benefit but weeping or numb inside
with the depressed, and the anxious, and the lonely
with the ones who can't conceive
with the addicts breaking free

I told my kids the miracle of Christmas is that God is with us - not coming tomorrow, not far off, not here only on the good days. God with us. With me. With you.

And even if you don't believe in God, that's totally fine. The beauty of this whole thing called life is that each of us contains the kindness, the generosity, the hope that Christmas or even just the Holiday season is all about.

And when we share it with others it pushes back against everything this past year, and our lifetimes, have tried to bog us down with. It pushes back against the lorries driving into crowds of holiday shoppers, and hijacked planes, and shootings at movie theaters, and children abandoned and abused, and jobs wrongfully lost, and bodies callously used. It pushes back against the temptation to cave into fear, worry, anger, hatred, apathy and says instead: "I will grieve, and I will mourn, and I will be with those who are grieving and mourning, but I also believe tomorrow can be better than today - whether I'm believing that for me, or for you, or for all the broken hearted, I believe."

May your holiday season this year, even if you don't celebrate any holiday, be filled with hope, and even more importantly, an assuredness that you have the power to spread hope - not because you will brush aside the darkness and the pain of others, but because you can be to to others as God is to me and to you: with us.

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