It’s Christmastime and our hearts are reminded that more than ever — we were created for love, for family, for community, for togetherness. And no matter how “perfect” your family may seem, you know that there is always something not quite right. We are reminded of broken relationships and the brokenness in our hearts and maybe that’s why some of us hurt more during the holidays than any other time of the year.
One of the happiest Christmases of my childhood was the year my younger sister was too weak to get out of bed and my parents setup Christmas dinner in our bedroom. Everyone was relieved that the worst was behind us. Her fever had broken and she was finally beginning to eat again. We didn’t have health insurance and my parents couldn’t afford to take her to the doctor. While we didn’t have much that year – no tree or presents — but we had each other. It felt right to be at home together.
As children, we think that if we’ll get presents and loads of goodies, then our hearts will feel loved and happy. I remember wishing Santa were real so that I could believe he would bring something nice for me. Santa had never come to the Andes Mountains and as children we never expected presents on Christmas morning.
But when all the children at school were talking about Santa and the presents they were going to get, it really made you want to believe he was real in the U.S. Then as I got older, I wished I had money so that I could buy presents to make my family happy but it never quite panned out that way even when I started earning money and bought presents.
The Christmases that followed were overshadowed by family members drinking and drugging and the pain of that discord was great.
In my home, my younger two are circling almost every other item in the toy catalogs they received at school…all the things they wish they could get for Christmas. And I know that even if they got every single of those things, they would not be truly happy. Because as I’m learning — true happiness is not found in the things we receive but in what we give away.
As painful as this time of the year is for some us, I also know that Christmastime can be the time when we are most reminded of the Hope we have. My middle child made a beautiful Advent wreath at school, and we lit the first candle this past Sunday and every night since.
The light flickering in the darkness of the evening reminds me of the hope Jesus came to bring us. Because ultimately He is our hope. He is the one who alone knows our pain, understands it and He alone can bring healing to our hearts.
So this Christmas, I reminded to bring those painful parts of my life to Jesus and I’m choosing to fix my eyes on Him and His light.
One of the ways, I do that is by writing down or saying out loud what I’m thankful for … and it helps if I can be specific as possible. It shifts my brain from going down the dark paths that lead to despair.
For most of my life, I’ve unwittingly trained my mind to go down negative lanes of regret, shame and fear. I end up feeling sad and feeling sorry for myself. The only way to change the habit patterns of our brain is to make new ones and that is what writing down what I’m thankful for or saying it in a moment of desperation does – creating something new in my brain.
Our new puppy (an early Christmas present for our oldest child) howled most of the night … the worst night since we got him. We got no sleep. And the next morning when the middle child refuses to get up on time, I almost feel hatred and anger in my heart towards her and that makes me sad. Yes, we were late to school because of it all, but how can I show such disdain towards my daughter?
Because I’m a sinner who needs Jesus at every moment of my life. Will I ever be the kind, patient and loving mother I long to be? Maybe not as I imagine it but I’m choosing to give my weaknesses to God and because of Jesus, I’m choosing to be more loving towards my children and looking for the good that God has created and deposited in them.
The first snow of the season has come and with it the howling fierce winds. The world outside seems dark and cold. Even so our hope candle flickers away and we are reminded that — yes, Christmastime is a season of hope. Not because all is right with the world around us or in us but because of Jesus — Christ in us, the hope of glory.