Feeble Knees

Friday, December 24, 2004

Tidings of Comfort

There are many for whom Christmas is just another day, for some its nothing less than an ordeal to be gotten through.

I'm missing an old friend today, and wondering what kind of weird and wonderful Christmas she and her family are going to have this year. She was the one who first introduced me to the concept that Christmas doesn't have to look, feel or smell like we all think it should. Sometimes, in drastic situations, you gotta think outside the gift box.

When you are the parent of a sick child, one that requires many surgeries, normal doesn't exist for you. You went down the rabbit hole the first time the doctor spoke the name of your child's illness, deformity, or syndrome out loud. What works for other kids doesn't work for your kid. What's normal in your family would be unthinkable in a healthy family. You do what you have to do to get to the next step, the next hour, the next day. Right? You don't necessarily have the time or luxury of indulging in the trivial - which three desserts to make for Christmas dinner, or whether you're going to have ham or turkey. These things that can seem so important one day, matter so little the next.

One year, my friend's daughter was scheduled for surgery two or three days after Christmas. No one felt like celebrating much. Getting out of bed was hard enough each day, never mind the thought of going through all the Christmas motions. So they did what they could handle. In an absolutely brilliant move, she went out and bought all new bedding for their beds, the rented a ton of movies, got out the microwave popcorn and they had a Christmas bed-in. I kid you not. They sat in their jammies watching movies together. Whenever they spoke of that day, it sounded like the greatest Christmas ever. The first time she told me this story, I was taken aback. But after thinking for a minute, one could see the sense and smarts in it.

Tradition can be a heavy thing to bear for folks who are grieving the loss of a loved one, either through death or divorce. Childless couples and empty nesters grieve the quietness of the house on Christmas morning. Single people feel awkward about being alone. Single parents find themselves in the extraordinary position of having to be Mom, Dad and Santa too. Folks in troubled marriages grieve the separateness between them on a day that is supposed to be so filled with joy.

It's a tough time for a lot of people. As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for Jesus, Christmas would be more of a headache than its worth.

Ah, but there *is* Jesus.

Jesus who deigned to born into human flesh, and that's not the worst of it. He was born in the midst of squalor, a very mean and humble place. That stable wasn't any grand hotel sweetheart. It was as crude and rude as you could get.

If you are someone who's having a hard time today, facing the prospect of a less than ideal Christmas, then it is good to know there is Someone who is not afraid to go down into the depths with you. Even on his own birthday, His focus is not on himself, but you.

And if your traditional ways of celebrating are dragging you down, or the thought of family visits is triggering panic attacks, find a new way to observe the day that works for you. Make it a point to go out and walk for an hour in the woods. When you find just the right spot, sing Happy Birthday Jesus at the top of your lungs. Or just revere Him in silence. Make happy Christmas (your favorite food) with someone you love. Go outside at midnight and contemplate the ancient stars that witnessed Christ's birth. In the quiet depths of midnight, imagine the sound of an heavenly host bursting into song with exceeding joy.

Or like my friend did, get out the flannel sheets and some videos. Do what works best for you, do only what is helpful - and toss the rest!

May you have a deeply comforting and healing Christmas. May Jesus' love touch you in wondrous ways and fill your heart with the blessed assurance and peace that He alone can give.

all the best,

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