I always feel nostalgic this time of year.
I suppose everyone does. My dreams and daydreams and quiet moments, rare as they may be, are flooded with memories.
SO many memories.
Some so painful I can hardly catch my breath for the remembering.
Some filled with inexpressible joy.
I remember my first Christmas as Jason's wife. Life was new, again. I woke up with my best friend next to me, and yet, he was a stranger. I'd only known him as my husband for 10 days, and I couldn't get enough of how wonderful and new he was to me.
I remember my Dad. Whom I lost just over 10 years ago to suicide. Who loved Christmas and who loved me - just for being me. Over and over, again. I remember my Dad.
I remember the first Christmas I spent with a broken heart. Everyone around me wore happy, plastic faces, and I wore grief. I was an unlikely Grinch, only my heart had been trampled on and refused to grow, and I desperately wanted to sing with the Whos. I couldn't find my song.
I remember the year I got a baby carriage. It's the first Christmas I remember. I wore my blue, polyester "Chatterbox" nightgown - perfect for the "Will she ever stop talking?" little girl who wore it at age six and still appropriate today, for the forty-year old who's never met a microphone she didn't love - as I pushed my new baby doll around our house on Sherman Avenue. It snowed that year.
I remember Christmas 2004 - my first as a mother. My newborn son was my world. He was the baby in every manger I saw, and "For unto us a child is born; a son is given" made my heart cry out a thousand thanks to God every time I heard or sang or read it.
I remember my Playdoh Fun Factory. And, my hand sewn Cabbage Patch Doll because a "real" one couldn't be found. I remember my first pair of Guess jeans and my karaoke machine - which blasted Wilson Phillips back-up music and my sisters and I ROCKED THAT HARMONY, YESPLEASEANDTHANKYOU. I remember the mixed emotions of Mom's new engagement ring and our new Atari and all of it blends together in one big mental montage of Christmases past.
While we decorated our Christmas tree this year, I sat and cried big fat tears for what had been. I wept for my Dad, whom I miss so much. I wept because I now have four sons and a daughter, and they are the best, craziest, most exhaustingly wonderful gifts I've ever gotten. I wept for the beautiful sacrifice my parents made to give us a toy-filled Christmas each year.
I wept for my broken heart 20 years ago. I wept for the broken hearts of those I love today. SO. many. broken. hearts.
I wept because, given the choice, I would never go back to the hurt and pain, but I want to close my eyes and relive the moments and gifts that took my breath away. Wouldn't we all?
As this memory-filled montage plays over and over in my head this morning, this week, this Christmas season - I look back and see how Christmas has been this broken and beautiful mix of joy and sorrow. And, the more I get to know and love people, it seems that's the way it is for most of us.
We are hurting. But, we know - we KNOW there is more.
Here's what I know about Christmas:
I need the baby in that manger.
In the hard things - the ones that have broken and wrecked my heart - I need a Savior.
In the blessings - I need the One True King that brings eternal joy.
In that duplex of hard and blessing - I need the Prince of Peace, whose love never waivers with the sway of my heart.
Jesus. He redeems our past. He redeems today. He is the hope for our future.
Friends - while the world around us grapples with both pain and joy this season - remembering the past, trudging through today, confused about tomorrow - we often forget they are listening and watching. Or we KNOW that they are watching, so we grab a megaphone to shout how our various Christmas traditions differ: Santa or no Santa, real or fake, elf or no elf, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, plain ol' red cup OR ONE WITH SNOWMEN ON IT for the love of all that DOES NOT MATTER, one present or ten. We can be so easily lured into launching social grenades to defend our way of celebrating Christmas.
This Christmas, if we can tell anything to the broken, the joy-filled, our children, new mamas holding their newborns, the homeless and orphan, the oppressed and hurting, and every soul who gets to hear, see, and read our voice, can our loudest shout be: to the broken-hearted, the joy-filled, our children, new mamas holding their newborns, victims of violence and abuse and the ones that love them, the oppressed and hurting, and EVERY SINGLE SOUL who gets to hear, see, or read our voice, can our loudest shout be:
"We have GOOD NEWS to share! Do you want to hear it?"
Out of love for the Gospel, that has the power to SAVE and redeem lives, and the hope-filled message of Jesus' birth, let's not squander this season in the name of who is the "rightest" in how we celebrate. We are in the same army. ALL YEAR LONG. Fighting to share with a hurting world the same GOOD NEWS:
• God will never hand you over to despair.
• God is strong and mighty to save and He will never let go of you.
• God is the Hope you are looking for - this Christmas and every day forward.
Our broken and hurting world needs OUR Savior.
Our blessed and indulged country needs THIS King.
Let's fight, together - however we celebrate this time of year - using this Christmas season to tell the world:
Your Peace. In all circumstances.