It hasn’t felt like Christmas this year.
I haven’t seen any snow, there were no decorations up in our house or lights on the back porch, and there was no incessant playing of Christmas carols… it just hasn’t “felt” like it.
I kept telling myself that it didn’t matter, that I don’t need to feel anything for it to be Christmas. Just like my faith, I can trust that God is real, that He is Who He says He is and that my faith is not dependent upon my feelings. Praise God.
And then it hit me tonight. That my feelings of expectation, excitement and hope were being shoved down by my also-ignored feelings of grief. You see, you never know what to expect heading into a major holiday without a loved one… without someone who has been around long before you were born… without someone who held a major portion of your heart.
I had no idea what to expect this Christmas without my grandmother. Not until I found myself staring at the holly-patterned vinyl tablecloth with tears streaming down my face.
I miss her. Terribly. And sometimes it feels like the lump in my throat and the sting in my heart will never go away. Everything seems to remind me of her, things she loved, things she said, things she taught me. So many memories that filled my life all have come to a screeching halt and they are all I have left.
And so it is in this state, with my tears that I come before the manger tonight – that I come before the throne of YHWH – with an offering of pain and sorrow.
I thought about the gifts the wise men brought – gold, myrrh and frankincense – the latter two were typically used for embalming bodies and scholars say they foreshadowed Jesus’ eventual death and burial 3o-some years later. I figure my tears fit right in with those gifts. Gifts for The King acquainted with pain and sorrow and death.
And it brings a sweet reminder that my gift is not received into ungrateful hands, but compassionately accepted and returned with unspeakable joy. Joy that overflows my stream of tears and goes deeper than the sting of my grief-stricken heart. Joy that conquers the grave and rejoices in eternal life.
Makes me feel quite at home… worshiping in a smelly stable, with the sheep and the wailing babe… what a throne room He came into…
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
– Luke 2: 8-14
… and I feel at home with the Israelites for the birth of their long-expected Savior:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
– Isaiah 9:2-7