Social media is happily dispensing enthusiasm, emotion and eager anticipation for the holiday season. The vivid descriptions and images of fireplaces and cocoa, plaids and sequins, lights and laughter feel like an attempt to scatter glitter through every screen into my lap.
Be warm, be filled, be happy. Let the dazzling delights of the season satisfy, they declare.
But for many of us the holiday sparkle intensifies our pangs of loneliness and grief, as if each piece of glitter is a tiny painful shard of glass.
The last six months of our lives, my husband’s and mine, have been lived in a waiting room of multiple unknowns. Like a slow lumbering cold front, heavy from horizon to horizon with blankets of thick dark clouds only occasionally punctuated with brief glimpses of blue, our fall has been a journey of blind faith not clear sight.
I emailed two dear friends the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It was a day of loneliness and complete exhaustion for me, the black cloud of discouragement obscuring our way again. I asked them once more for prayer, adding that I’d decided not to decorate for Christmas this year: an undeniable indicator of my physical and emotional state.
For me, one who has loved decorating for the holidays since I was a child, it felt sacrilegious, misguided, even traitorous, as if the heart of this season was all external. Even still, I’m confident that what matters is my heart, for there resides the art of worship.
Today though rays of light are beginning to break through. I’ve pulled out my manger scene, added lights around our front door and decorated my little twig tree. Still, the ceiling touching evergreen will not grace our home this year. The simplicity feels refreshing. Reminders of the gifted manger truth. An uncluttered stable. Baby Jesus the center of attention.
I am not alone feeling grief amidst the glitter.
A sweet childhood friend of my thirty-seven year old daughter is halfway through her chemo treatments for breast cancer. How does my friend, her mother, and this young mom of four find peace and joy in this season?
Laura, now married one year, still has many friends, godly young women, who long to be married but are waiting again this Christmas for that long prayed for but still unfound husband. Yes they know marriage is not the answer for all, but the ever present images of happy children opening gifts with ever smiling moms and dads is a constant reminder to these delightful young women of their aloneness.
Lined pages on our prayer list are filled with names of dear friends, family members, and many acquaintances facing the unknowns of challenging medical conditions and broken relationships. Where do they—and we—find peace and joy this December and beyond?
“And He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6) is one of my favorite verses. No matter our personal difficulties or the current national or world crisis, stability, comfort and peace are only found in Jesus, the Babe in the manger.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who I am honored to know as a friend, gives me the perspective I need. For 45 years she has been bound to a wheelchair and to the constant need of others caring for her physical needs.
She said this past year in an interview, “In the morning when I wake up, I know they’ll be coming into my bedroom to give me a bed bath, to do my toileting routines, pull up my pants, put me in the wheelchair, feed me breakfast, and push me out the front door. I lie there thinking, Oh God, I cannot face this. I’m so tired of this routine. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. But I can do all things through You as You strengthen me. Can I please borrow your smile? I need it.”
I have said those words too, “Oh God, I can’t do this another day. I don’t know how I can make it through this, Lord.”
Have you voiced this prayer too?
Do you shake your head incredulously at Joni’s impossible to comprehend circumstances? I do. And I marvel.
Joni goes on to say, “I make myself be happy. I make myself sing because I have to. I choose the Holy Spirit’s help because I don’t want to go down that grim, dark path to depression anymore. Cast yourself at the mercy of God and let Him show up through your weaknesses because that is what He promises.”
Her faith stuns me. But God eagerly waits to meet me and you and every person when we come with our losses and broken hearts to His welcoming embrace. Peace and joy are found only in a real vital alive relationship with Jesus Christ who willingly shrunk His deity to a single cell to then be born on Christmas Day for our sake.
Come to Him. Give Him your broken heart. Adore Him always as Christ the Lord. Then sing for joy that He has not abandoned us.
Not for a moment will He forsake thee or me.
And by the way, my friend, Joanne, wrote me back to say it is okay if I don’t put up a tree this year. She then said, “It’s not true that you won’t be decorating this year. Thousands of women across the country will be hanging the names of Jesus on Christmas trees because Ever Thine Home.” How grateful I am for Joanne and for so many of you who are making your homes proclaim Jesus in multiple ways and places this year.