We went to a Christmas party last night. We got a sitter and made ourselves respectable and spent the evening with a lovely group of folks. The women huddled in the living room, just in the shadow of the twinkling tree, while the men gathered round the dining room table and talked about…well, I’m not sure what they talked about. Eventually, we all got together, pulling chairs to join us near the tree, and played a few rounds of games that had us laughing til we cried.
As the evening was winding down, Garrett got a phone call and needed to respond to a work situation. So we said quick good-byes and headed out. Thanks for having us. It was so fun. We need to do this more often. Merry Christmas!
Big, happy sighs all around.
It’s hard to describe the situation that we walked into next, difficult to put into words what it was like- partially due to privacy for the situation and partially due to the jolt of going from a light-hearted gathering to an intense scene. Garrett walked in and immediately was “on”, handling the emotion and the angst with such grace and strength. I sank into the living room couch and prayed for peace and grace and wisdom, all the while trying not to be overly thankful that we don’t do this every day any more.
I sat, feeling useless, and listened. The pain in that house was raw. It was loud and uncensored, and so deeply despairing. It was honest and shouting. It was fearful and bold. It was somehow vulnerable and defiant all at once.
The contrast of the two scenes wove through my mind as I sat there, and it reminded me of several things that I had once learned and yet forgotten along the way.
When you live with those who are hurting, when you embrace their chaos and let it become your own, the details of Christmas seem to work themselves out differently. The perfect shape of your tree, the timely arrival of your shiny holiday letters, the detailed list of things to buy, the pressure to do and be and have an AWESOME ADVENT….well, those just fade away.
When you live with kids who have been abandoned or unloved or ill-treated, you’re suddenly grateful for any and every Christmas where you were safe.
When you hear a voice broken in despair, when you share and grieve the heartache that comes from a child who has not been valued and protected, your own heart aches with a longing that no Christmas comfort can touch.
When you live in the shadow of the world, when you choose to engage the darkness and push into hard things and fight on behalf of others, things like Christmas can seem menial. Inconsequential. Insignificant.
In this season of Advent, we practice waiting. We prepare our hearts. Quite simply, we long. And in the midst of this longing world, in the midst of the crying out and the vulnerable defiance and the hollowed out pain, we ask Christ to please do something. And then we remember that He has, indeed, done something: He came.
He came to bind up the broken hearted.
He came to set the captives free and release prisoners from darkness.
He came to proclaim good news to the poor.
Christmas matters because the life and love of Christ still matter.
May your Christmas draw you nearer to the heart of why Christ came, and may we follow Him in courageous imitation toward the world around us that is still broken and captured and dark.
Merry Christmas, friends.