Christmas has always held an incredible sense of wonder, particularly in childhood. Our family carried out traditions which helped me feel safe, secure, and loved. I’ve passed this on with a desire to rekindle old memories of joy and begin similar flames for my children.

On Wednesday nights we attended Advent services followed by soup suppers. The aroma of corn chowder with all it’s cheesy and bacony goodness still gives me a thrill of delight.

In the private Christian school I attended, we spent weeks preparing for the Christmas program. We sang a multitude of songs, filed in to the gym finding our place in the bleachers, and spent hours waiting through rehearsals.

After the program, dad had a special treat for us. Ice cream in the shape of Santa or a Christmas tree. I didn’t care much for the ice cream, but when dad bought this once a year specialty, I felt it.

On Christmas Eve we opened one gift. Always the same. Always expected. Always an ornament. For years we collected these treasures. As an adult, my children began collecting theirs.

Hope for a Weary World

When we moved back from the ranch in 2013, where we fostered and where my life changed forever, we came home without the treasures of my childhood. I’ve grieved ever since.

Maybe it’s because this loss came at the same time I cried over dreams and children who were no longer with us. Or maybe it’s because I felt the need to remember something good in such a desperate way, but the loss of our ornaments still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.

Growing up I was shielded from the pains many experience in this world. Even so, my heart was terribly sensitive to what hurt me and what I believed hurt others. Without a major travesty, I grew to know depression, disordered eating, and self-harm as a way of releasing pain. Then I healed (some) and grew in ways I hadn’t expected. For a number of years it seemed as if everything was OK, until it wasn’t and I crashed in grief and anxiety.

Since then, I’ve known Christmases without all the pleasure of my youth. I’ve known others who grieve their loneliness and losses in ways I hadn’t fathomed before. Somehow, in all of this I’ve come to know more the weight of waiting for what a world really needs.

Salvation. Redemption. The hope of everything changing because wrongs are put to right and evil is put to flight.

Isn’t that what we all long for? Don’t we hope for the way our world can be better than it is now?

As I sit near the fire each morning I’m reminded of the people of Israel. Of how they suffered much and how God continually urged them forward with the hope of redemption ahead. They believed it would look grand and they believed it would be magnificent. God’s children were looking for relief in ways which He hadn’t intended because they were looking to their circumstances rather than the work of their hearts.

For many, the presence of God in the weakly form of a baby was missed. While they watched for some grand relief from the oppression of their enemies, God came in almost undetected. Yes, there was a star, but how many missed seeing the great light because they were focused on the darkness around them?

All too often, that’s me. I don’t like it when God comes in ways which are far different than the answers I want. My flesh rises up when I’m challenged to put my trust in Him through circumstances that seem anything but just.

Among the festivities and fun, or the heartache and hard, lie our expectant longings for things which fulfill our desires. We put our hope in the things of this world when all along God has something more. His salvation comes for the transformation of mankind.

I consider words from the classic song, O Holy Night;

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

Those who saw with eyes of faith, they knew. Who knew the thrill of hope which comes from knowing God’s presence regardless of present pains? I wonder how few they were?

This year, will it be me? Will it be you? It can be us.