Christmas was chaos this year. I kept trying to escape it, to climb up higher, where I could see far over it all and find perspective but I failed.
A couple of years after Spence died, I expressed to my mother, who had also lost a child, how hard Christmas was now.
“You’ll never like Christmas again, “ she said matter-of-factly. And because there is still a small spark of rebellious teenager in me I thought, respectfully,
But so far, mama’s right. I know the reason for the season. Believe me, I look for Jesus in everything, and you have to look hard these days, but even a cheerful “Merry Christmas!” from a stranger ignites hope in my soul. Still I felt like I was just two steps ahead of that dark intruder, Sorrow and his little brother, Self-Pity.
Here’s something I know, because I had to learn it early. God hates self-pity and He’ll do anything to keep us from throwing a party. It’s very tempting, especially when you’ve built a strong case for it. Who could blame you? you ask yourself. Don’t I have a right? Other people have all of their kids. But not me…
The problem with pity parties is they are very expensive and no one has a good time except me, Poor Me. It’s kind of a disgusting indulgence, like eating too much chocolate. There you are, all alone, when it’s over, feeling sick and hating the world. And chocolate. And God is shaking His head, and with love like fire in His eyes, saying I told you so. He has so much more for us than that.
So I planned a getaway trip for my husband and me. Distraction always works. Just a little trip to the mountains. But I was thrown off kilter by the death of a friend last weekend, knowing his kids were trying to process a Christmas without him. Then right before I left work, I ran into a nurse who lost her son last fall and she wept in my arms, and I cried too, remembering the first Christmas with no Spence. Sorrow was indeed winning and closing in fast.
My husband tried, and in the long run it was a good time, probably because he is used to a wife who can be emotionally polarized. It seemed like everywhere I went, there it was, Sorrow, like Wily Coyote, leaning up against a fence with a stick of dynamite, just waiting.
A few years ago I bought one of those sparkle globes at Home Goods. It’s very heavy; a child could break their foot if they dropped it, but I wanted it just for me. Inside there is Mary and Joseph, who is standing next to her, looking down at baby Jesus. You can wind it up and it plays Silent Night so softly, then slower, slower till it stops but if you shake it real good, the sparkles are still falling silently upon them.
I picked it up from my coffee table today and thought I’d put it away now, because I’m glad Christmas is over, but I shook it one last time and stood there watching the sparkles, thinking about how silent the night was for Mary and Joseph until all the shepherds showed up. Just silence. Maybe that’s what was missing this Christmas. The closest I came to it was watching my friend Dan breathe his last breath and leave his poor cancer-ridden body, stepping into a glory that we can only imagine. There is nothing to say, and it is so deep and mysterious, you can only watch in awe. You could feel God there, it was holy ground. Profound and holy, just like birth, but quieter.
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright.
Sometimes I think even churches feel like they have to fill the silence with endless carols, and kid’s plays and Don’t forget about Jesus! I don’t, I can’t. But if He were here with us, I don’t think He’d be found at the mall, or ringing a Salvation Army bell or even driving a Toys for Tots bus. I’m not sure Jesus would even go to church. But I know He’d want to be with my friends’ family, the nurse who lost her son this year, in a prison cell, a hospital room or with anyone who is weary and looking for hope.
And I just got it…He also wants to be with me. Jesus is not afraid of Sorrow. He’d probably pick up my sparkle globe and shake it. And listening to the song, He’d smile.
Next year mom could be wrong.