This Christmas season has been a weird one for me – in a few ways. Most obviously, it is my first Christmas with my husband. Also, my first Christmas with his dog (now our dog), Charlie – the beagle in the photo! Did you know that when you get married, you buy twice the gifts?! And you have double the dinners? And you spend A LOT of time with your spouse? But these things are not really why this season was weird – I actually really enjoyed these things.
The weird thing was this sadness I carried. About a week before Christmas, I experienced heart-wrenching disappointment and loss. Not death in the physical sense, but death all the same. Some of you know the field in which I work – anti-trafficking. And the week before Christmas – it was a doozy. All the drama and the brokenness and the despair. The pain and the suffering and the reality of addiction. How to celebrate this birth when there is dying right beside?
All the while, my sweet, sweet sister and cousin were here in Tennessee for a visit. And I went to see my favorite in concert – Johnnyswim! There was so much fun and so much good, but so much darkness just next door. The weight of it weighing on me all the time.
And after a long, tumultuous week, we headed home to Virginia. To be with our families, to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. To light candles, be around the table, laugh together, give gifts, watch movies. Not to mention the matching denim vests for the dogs.
And then a visit to my grandparents. She is quite sick and he is his usual quiet. The next day, the rescue squad is called and she is admitted for pneumonia – the very thing the doctor said could take her.
How to live in this in between? How to hold the hard and ugly in one hand, while holding easy and lovely in the other?
And through all this mess, I felt myself put off the anticipation of Christmas. How to celebrate here, now? I didn’t feel I could honor advent and I suffered. I was too busy keeping up and keeping it together to let Him in. Didn’t make room, much like the Innkeeper. Maybe he was grieving too. He could’t fit another single thing on his plate. I get it. I think that’s where I was. Giving too much space to heartache and brokenness. Gripping the grief instead of just holding it. I gripped onto death and forgot about the life and joy in my other hand.
But maybe in the wake of hard things, we don’t have to ignore the good?
Shauna Niequist said, “Christmas is about sacred light cutting through the darkness—not about pretending the darkness isn’t there.”
It’s okay to hold both the ugly and the lovely. I heard someone say that sometimes this season can seem like a Christ’mess’. And for me this year, that is probably true. (Will I ever be good at balance?) The beauty of Christmas is that Christ came and will come again. How can I miss it? And so often? He came to bring hope and light to this weary world. He is here even now, willing us to invite Him in. Let him fix the ugly. Let Him mend all the mess.