There are Christmas lights everywhere. “Christmas house!” Eloise shouts from the backseat every time we pass another creatively lit display. Here at home, we light the tree when we wake up in the morning and turn it off when the last of us goes to bed…so many good memories and people represented in each ornament and decoration twinkling in the lights. They’re all beautiful to me.
In every place with a Christmas tree, the holiday icon stands tall and obvious, lighting up the room. Being perfectly appointed by catalogue standards or taking on a Charlie Brownish quality makes no difference. We have this universal reminder that Christmas brings light, and we place it at the center of our celebrations and traditions year after year.
In much the same way that we pull out or drag home a tree each December, decking it out to be a token of light and life in the Christmas season, the holidays also pull out or drag home so much that feels contrary to Christmas and celebration. Sadness. Loneliness. Hopelessness. Anger. Unsettling. Discontent. And I think we’ve come to expect it, but we also want to hide it–this darkness that feels more tangible around the holidays than at other times of the year.
Where does the “most wonderful time of the year” leave room for heartache, when it feels like everyone else is doing fine and making merry?
We tell ourselves that things have to be perfect…to look perfect, to feel perfect, to seem perfect. Perhaps if we can prove ourselves in decorating and gifting, we can push past the hard parts of Christmas and no one will know. Or at least, we hope, no one will ask.
If they ask, suddenly our hurts will grow legs and stand tall in the middle of the room–not unlike our trees, but so much less appealing.
At Christmastime more than any other, hurts and longings are raw and vulnerable. So why, on a holiday meant to celebrate the birth of the One who came to save us from pain and sin and death, do we sometimes feel so burdened and without life?
There is hurt and grief at Christmas time that just can’t hide behind anything. It comes out. It comes out in tears, in anger. It comes out in family dynamics and miscommunications, in perfectionism and standards too high for any one person to keep.
I believe it comes out, because at this time of year more than any other, the whole earth consciously craves a great light. And as we wait to once again celebrate the coming of that great light as a tiny baby to a broken world, we grapple.
We ask ourselves whether we’re worthy. Whether we’re remembered. We wonder why a God–who would love the world so much that he would send his son to live and die in it, could also withhold, or take away from, or seem so silent, to us.
We miss people we love and we long for people to love. We try to quiet the hurt in our hearts and it beats louder–so loudly that it feels like everyone around us might hear it. We break.
In this season of light and darkness, where contrasts cast shadows and we wrestle with what is good and holy while we wrestle with ourselves, Jesus still comes.
He comes humbly and small, alert and unassuming. He comes to a manger and to cradle us all the while. He sees the light and the darkness, the contrasts of joy and sorrow, and every last shade of them matters.
He is the light that drives out darkness. Not so that darkness doesn’t come out of hiding, but precisely so that it does.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.
We can sit by the tree this Christmas and hope that its light distracts from our pain and suffering, or we can trust that the light will shine brighter as we allow ourselves to acknowledge the deep darknesses we carry into the Christmas season.
Let’s set our hardships and our hearts at the base of the tree in this graceful December. Not as perfectly wrapped presents waiting to be revealed on Christmas morning, but as an offering to the God who already knows what’s tucked inside.
“And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ ” Luke 2.9-11
Do not be afraid. There has been born for you a Savior.
I have to remember this in these Advent days, too. And so we light our trees daily as we wait in joyful hope for the one Light that drives darkness from the earth for once and for all.
love and light,
“He has come for us, this Jesus. He has come for all mankind. He has come for us, the Messiah. Born to give us life!” -Meredith Andrews