A True Merry Christmas!
Traditions. Miracles. Hope.
This time of year – Christmas, the holidays – we celebrate many things. We wrap gifts, sing songs, stuff stockings, and hug loved ones. We adorn our homes with lights and indulge in the story of an old man in red, bringing long anticipated joy and gifts to many at the end of a long, hard fought year. Some of us celebrate the birth of Jesus, the One I’d rather count on to bring long anticipated joy and gifts to many at the end of a long, hard fought year. But regardless of which story you celebrate this year, we all celebrate three things – traditions, miracles, and hope.
The beauty of traditions is that they stay the same just as much as they change. They are an ever-malleable conduit for the past to be part of the present and present to lay a foundation for the future. They remind us who we are, where we came from, and can in beautiful ways reroute us to the place we really want to go, a place that’s so easy to loose sight of in the hustle of the year behind us. For us, my sisters and I, we still decorate Santa cookies, a fierce competition of who can fashion the most glamorous sugary snowman. We are 28, 25, and 21. Though our tall glasses of milk are now flutes filled with champagne, our tradition remains. It brings us back to the heart of family and to a faded memory of how to love and play and simply enjoy life like we did as children. Find that tradition this year! And let it carry you back to a place where you knew less, played more, and found pure joy in the perfect sugary snowman.
Regardless of your faith, we all long for miracles, and at Christmas, even allow ourselves to entertain that they might be true. But the idea of miracles all too often gets chalked up to grandiose, supernatural phenomenon or mythical children’s stories. We wait with jaded expectation for the things we can’t remedy for ourselves to be sprinkled with fairy dust and made better than new. If it does, we risk taking it for granted, and if it doesn’t, our indictment that God is in fact not good is upheld. I think the problem here isn’t God’s ears to our prayers, but our eyes to His work.
We long for the blockbuster moment, the complete overthrow of natural order to grant what our hearts most desire, and He does still grant those requests. This year, He didn’t grant mine. I prayed and begged for the greatest miracle a wife could ask for and didn’t get it. Yet if I accuse God for abandoning me, I’m looking at the wrong work. I wanted supernatural brain healing, and you know what the Lord gave me? Himself. His own miraculous, sustaining, peace-outpouring self. He gave me a voice and a heart to stand beside so many in pain and encourage them. He gave me an eternal perspective that leaves most stressors and priorities of this life seeming trivial. He gave me strength I never dreamed I’d have. He gave me a million little miracles in lieu of the one huge one I asked for.
That’s just my story. Yours is probably different, hopefully different. But more than likely we all didn’t get a miracle we wanted this year. Let me encourage you to reset your vision. I’d be willing to bet you got at least a hand full of other ones you weren’t expecting. Maybe this year, we don’t just focus on the blockbuster miracles; maybe we celebrate the small ones. Maybe we turn off the news, and read stories of love and service and gratitude from St. Jude or Make-a-Wish foundation. Maybe we celebrate a time when we let a friend care for us when we were broken or trusted someone without reason to and they proved worthy. Maybe we had a loved one birth a new baby – a miracle in and of itself. The point is, they’re everywhere, and I’d hate to miss them just because I’m zeroed in on the one I didn’t get.
The trouble is, celebrating what we do have never relieves the pain of what we don’t. The gifts and lights and drinks, they don’t heal the wound, as much as I wish they did. But they do remind us that we’re more than just the wound, and that all wounds will eventually heal. This season and all that comes with it doesn’t promise us smooth, wide roads to travel in the coming year, but it does promise us hope. Hope that the hurt won’t always be at the center of our life, and that it won’t ultimately be the end of our story. Christmas reminds us of peace, family, and of a man far greater than us, whether in a red suit or a crown of thorns, who remembers us, hears us, and longs to shower us with gifts, some of which we asked for and some of which we didn’t.