For at least 30 years I’ve played the same Christmas music every Christmas morning. Amy Grant’s original Christmas album is a must have for the moments planned just right. Like when the fireplace blazes, egg nog awaits and every one sits calmly positioned to open their stockings. One at a time.
What other way is there?
Apparently, a whole lot of other ways. Even so, I do whatever I can to keep our family traditions going year after year. Including the specially selected ornaments for Christmas Eve and a house that’s cold enough to allow for a fire in the first place.
Try growing up in MN and moving to TX. Twenty years later I still don’t want to deal with weather above freezing, much less weather which necessitates a lack of layers. I still want my white Christmases.
As I grow older and life continues to march on with the change of season after season, I’m continually confronted with tension.
Can I hang on to the things which remind me of sweeter days? Must I let go?
Mom gave us the gift of tradition for most major holidays and birthdays. Each one became incredibly special because they made me feel like a valued part of a bigger picture.
I felt cared for. Thought of. Noticed. Wanted. Valued. Attended to.
Oh, how much I want to bring those special moments into my own home and carry them on for as long as possible.
How long will they continue? I don’t know. I do know that some things just change and there isn’t much you can do about it. There’s a level of loss felt with each shift, when something new replaces the old or when the old just has to go.
The more I hold on tightly to the things I love, the greater the grief. And the greater my heart is tested.
Will I still feel valued? Treasured? Noticed? Thought of? Or will I lose that too?
After much reflection, I see these feelings as a big part of what keeps me resistant to change.
I’ve experienced a great deal of loss in the last few years, so anything seemingly small adds to a larger picture. The weight feels crushing at times.
Underneath, lay feelings and beliefs about myself which I didn’t know I wrestled with so greatly. They lay quietly below the surface of the day to day. But, when loss comes, they rise and writhe.
I didn’t know how much my collection of ornaments meant to me until I didn’t have them anymore.
As a child I wasn’t so thrilled about getting one, then when our family returned home from the ranch in 2013, two of our Christmas boxes didn’t make the move with us. I’d already been grieving the loss of foster children I’d grown to love, but when I opened the single storage bin and the ornaments weren’t there, I just sobbed.
Also missing were the homemade stockings, the stocking hangers which I was so thrilled to finally purchase years prior, and a number of other childhood Christmas decorations.
Gulp. Those colorful, glittery elves well-loved long before the Elf-on-the-Shelf phenomenon were gone too.The ones mom wrapped up for me in that violin paper which seems to never end because I’ve been getting gifts inside it for nearly the same thirty years in which Amy Grant’s music graced our holiday.
Two years later loss still grips my heart tight.
Maybe its’ because losses avalanched in one season. Maybe it’s because of how deeply I treasure the small things in this world which bring me joy.
But I think there’s more. I think those feelings of value and worth wove internally in such a way that events and things of this world take a little too much space in my heart.
When they aren’t there, the hole feels gaping. Almost consuming.
Sure, loss is compounded by emotional strain, family shifts and uncertain seasons, but it’s there and the weight is heavy.
I know I’m not alone.
Did you know there’s such a thing as a Blue Christmas? And it’s not just a song by a wobbly legged man. Church’s are becoming more aware of those for whom Christmas isn’t “the most wonderful time of year.” I never wanted to know one myself, but God is in His grace has seen it fit for me to know quite a few.
In this knowing grows compassion for others, especially those who have it much harder.
Like my friend who’s husband passed away last year and this is the first Christmas she’ll have without him, while still providing for young children. Like those who suffer from chronic illnesses and upon whom no holiday waits or gives reprieve. Like those estranged from family and friends, or unable to give as they used to because circumstances prevent it, and those who spend their first Christmas away from loved ones.
Like the trafficked, the enslaved, the abused, the weary and worn. They are among us and all around.
We all need something more.
We all need to know we are valued, loved, thought of and cared for. It’s deeply woven inside our being and it’s a need meant to draw us to the very one whose human birth we celebrate at Christmas.
Anytime our legitimate need for feeling valued is filled by an event, a person or a thing, we find it’s loss painful. This stripping away of idols and distractions can literally feel like a heart ripping and shredding.
But when the loss is replaced by an infilling of healing and care by our good, loving Father, we experience something entirely new. Something far more soothing & filling which can never be taken away.
Loss gets us to notice our need, which in turn is meant to point us to the only One who provides fulfillment.
We are a people in great need of a Savior, whether we know it or not. And this, this is where our hearts must turn.
We must remember the gift of our good Father given through His son. How his birth did not come through a magically wonderful, best time of the year, but rather in a bustling city, to a young and inexperienced couple who had to seek God completely in order to know how to care for His son.
We too can trust our good Father.
As I mourn my own losses and very real challenges, I remember that I really am part of a larger picture.
Keeping our eyes, heart and mind focused on temporary things not only makes it all feel more painful, it also limits perspective and potential.
We need to see a bigger picture. We need the One who helps us see. We must seek the deeper things of Christ this Christmas.
Our hearts need to experience and know how valued we are in His sight.
Where God is, and He is with us everywhere we are, there is the gift of being known.
By reminding ourselves of a God who sees it all, and choosing to sing praises even when we don’t feel like it, our hearts open up to receive grandeur unexplainable.
We come to know how much we are known, loved, noticed, cared for and valued.
Even greater, we receive the kind of knowing which gives us peace and surety to live well through our seasons of change and loss.
We come to know Him.
I invite you to join me in choosing praise, no matter how challenging today or tomorrow might be.
We can choose Hope because Hope came to us at Christmas and sits today in victory over death.
Our Hope and future is always before us, in Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of his will,
to the praise of his glorious grace,
with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us,
in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will,
according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time,
to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.