How can it be December ? It seems incredible that the bustle and hustle of the Christmas season is upon us. I’m not sure about you guys, but I certainly am feeling nostalgic, and yes, meloncholy for Christmases of yesteryears. Not sure if that last word was in fact a word, but because I like to invent words to make me happy, I will be charitable to myself and others who also fixate on these types of quirky choices…
I was just scrolling through my photos on my I pad, that truthfully I haven’t let myself do for a while, because I knew it would bring tears. Sometimes, you just have to prepare yourself mentally, and then decide to let yourself enter into that place of “the before.”
I call this, “the before,” because if you have been in the place before the diagnosis of cancer, or Parkinson’s, or huntingtons, or heart attacks, car crashes, divorce, death , then you know of which I speak. It’s almost like you stood on the edge of the cliff, and before you, appeared to be a cool lake, with lush evergreen trees surrounding, tons of blooming flowers, a brilliant sunlit sky, and wide expanse of heaven. It felt like a great adventure to just jump, arms spread wide, face lifted to the skies, and wait expectedly for the rush of the cool lake water to envelop all of your senses… It would be brilliant this jump…..
It happens…the news, that nobody is prepared for, nobody wants, and all of us dread. The unexpected, not welcome surprise that will blow up your world, and it will become “the before,” that you once inhabited.
Just as you step off the cliff something happens….It all changes in an instant… The skies darken, the storm clouds appear, and the once clear blue lake before you, turns to a dismal, and darkening grey, the waves rise up, and bits of mud and debree , swirl about….but it’s too late…you stepped off, and now you will enter into something you were never prepared for, and did not want. The elation you felt a few seconds before, has turned abruptly into apprehension and fear. The future imminent landing seems precarious, and, as it turns out, the bottom rising up to meet you, seems a lot more shallow then you were prepared for….You may hit “rock bottom.”
So what now?
Jesus promised me that “when I go through the waters…He will be with me,” and that “they will not overtake me,” and so I cling to this circular object that appeared out of nowhere, bobbing crazily on the surface, as my face bursts through to meet the turmultuous current. I did not see this “flotation device” as I was plummeting to what felt like a certain death. Where had it come from? It so conveniently happens to be right beside me, and so I grab hold. My breathing is jagged, my hair is plastered to my face, and this water is bitterly cold….and is taking the air from my lungs. If I don’t get out of these icy depths soon, I will become hypothermic.
I am stunned that I have survived, but where is the shore? It seems so far away, and my legs feel as if they are waited down with anchors. I am very fond of the anchor symbol, but it seems as if the anchor that I clung to before, is now working against me, and the life preserver, is trying bravely, to keep me afloat, but the cold steel attached to my limbs, just clings around, and wants to pull me deeper down….
I cry out, “Jesus…Jesus…save me…” That one cry, that one name, and my legs have feeling, they can kick, and appear to have propellers attached to them. My head and arms are above the circle of the life preserver, and I am surrounded by it, by Him. He holds me up, he brings my head back to the surface, and he instructs me to hang on tight to that which I know to be true…I hang onto Him, because He is the only one who can bring peace to my storm, and calm to my heart.
He is the hope of this season, this changing season. Even when the seasons of our lives bring sorrow, and pain, they also bring joy. By his grace, he promises to fill us up with His great joy, the birth of Jesus. We know this story…. The Christmas story. It is a story of hope, of miracles, and of incredible self sacrificing, and amazing love.
I really enjoy so many of the Christmas carols, but one of my favorites, that is a newer song, is ” Mary did you know?” The lyrics of this song are about the point of view of Jesus’s Mother, Mary. It asks the questions that every Mother wonders about her unborn baby. What will this child bring to this earth, and did she know? How must she have felt to realize that the baby son that she would give birth to, would one day be nailed to a cross, and suffer an excruciating death, that we can scarcely imagine. She would have a son, only to watch him die….What did she do with those feelings? This was her reality. Her perspective was of her son, that she loved. She carried him in her womb, she bonded with him. He suckled at her breast, she changed his diapers, and held him when he cried.
She was there in the stable , pushing baby Jesus out into the world, onto straw, and into the cruelty of what what surely be…It must have been smelly, and scratchy,and terrifying, but she did it. She gave birth to the King of Kings in the simplest of buildings. It was humble. Jesus chose to come into our world in a humble way. It wasn’t Notre Dame, or Westminister Abbey…it was a barn…Really… This is just stunning, and depicts the nature of our savior, Jesus.
He came from heaven, to earth…talk about jumping off a cliff. He did his Father’s will, right until the the painful end, and even there on the cross, he asked his Father,”why?”….. “Why have you forsaken me?”
He knew, but he asked…He was human, he suffered like we do, and yet he was willing to be our gift.
His before, was heaven, and as He walked on our earth, there was pain that He endured. He encounterd darkness, people’s lies, and hatred, their betrayal, but He kept loving them, and loving us.
The perfect gift this season of Christmas was ” the perfect gift.” The best way I can think about this season of change, is that Christ is in Christmas. And that is where the truest, and most lasting “JOY” can be found. It is a gift that we can unwrap every day, all throughout the year… If we choose to….
Remembering past seasons spent with family around a delightfully lit tree, presents underneath, children playing games, eating big bowls of popcorn, candles burning, watching movies, and creating memories that are etched in love… can feel distant…
There is so much to be grateful for… the Joy of the season permeates, and settles.. even in the sorrow, there will be Joy. It lasts, and hugs our broken hearts, and His love infuses much needed heat back into ice. The frost bite dissipates, and melts away the pain.
The comfort of friends, and family surrounding is indescribable. Jesus also promised that “He would not leave me comfortless.” That is a promise made to all of us.
The changes in our lives can leave us raw, and bewildered, unsure of how just to celebrate, as the season surrounds us.
Traditions that many times left us glowing, now feel dashed, and the Christmas boxes are still stored in a cold, anemic rental unit… remaining duct taped, until the time is right to want to decorate again….
Focus…. on Jesus… He is the reason…
Climb the mountain, and summit with the light, and celebrate the King who came to earth to bring us hope… and love…Merry Christmas…