I was listening to some Christmas music this morning through my headset as I got some chores done around the house. I find myself in two places of time simultaneously: the present and ten years ago. If you are having a difficult time with the holidays this year, maybe this will encourage you in a way you didn’t expect. I grew up in a very close-knit family with constant activity. Holidays weren’t extravagant but everyone was together. By the time I was in my late thirties, however, our family was quite small. Both of my parents were still living as well as my siblings, two older brothers and my twin sister.
Ten years ago, on an early December morning,
our phone rang entirely too early. Some of you know that ring. We learned that my oldest brother had suffered a massive heart attack. He had celebrated his 42nd birthday just days earlier. With such a small family, my second brother and I oversaw the care of other family members during the ensuing three weeks that Allen was in the ICU. I would make the two-hour drive each way with my mother each day. My other brother took care of my sister-in-law’s needs as well as that of her entire family. Allen would be in the ICU for three weeks, and was two hours from home. I drove my mother to and from the hospital each day during this period while my brother took care of my sister-in-law and her family’s needs. The rest of our family stayed scattered many hours away. Somehow we maintained calm amidst weeks of chaos.
My mother had a two specific rules during this period. I drove. No Christmas music.
My older brother’s body finally gave out the day after his son’s 16th birthday, December 22nd.We held the viewing on December 24th, had our family Christmas December 25th, and had the funeral December 26th.
What did Christmas look like two thousand years ago?
- Christmas is not about who can buy the most expensive gifts, who decorates their home the nicest, or whose trash can was the fullest on December 26th. If you feel as though you have little to offer, offer yourself. This is the best time of year to visit your local nursing home, bring a plate of goodies to the shut-in who lives nearby. If you are that shut-in, send some notes to your neighbors who seem rushed all year. That could be the only hand-written note they receive all year. “So Joseph also went up… to register with Mary…While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born…she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
- Common, ordinary people were used for an extraordinary part of the Christmas story. If you are feeling left out, Christmas is for you! “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
- Maybe you have had a really tough year this year. There is good news that far outweighs anything that has happened this year. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” It is okay, yes beneficial, to celebrate the Savior in the midst of your sorrow.
- Don’t let anyone take the song away from your heart. I understood completely why my mother didn’t want to hear any Christmas music on the radio. People are allowed to grieve differently from each other. In your own time, in your own space, do what you must to keep hope. My mother had my dad to turn to each evening. I was several states away from my family, and music brought joy to my heart. So I sang my favorite Christmas melodies alone in my bed at night. That’s okay. Make room for grace. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ ” (Passages from Luke 2:1-20)
Did you find yourself somewhere in the Christmas story this year or in years past? Is there someone you can encourage? I hope so. Wherever you find yourself this Christmas season, my prayer is that you would find opportunity to remember Who we celebrate and Why we celebrate.