…but what if it’s not? What if Christmas feels a lot less like magic, and a lot more like a frosty nose pressed to a glass window, peering inside as you wistfully bear witness to everybody else’s joy? What about those of us feel like we’re on the outside looking in this Christmas season?
I’ve always loved Christmas—every little bit of it. When I was a little girl, the sheer magic of anticipation used to drive me to wake my brothers up around 3:00 AM. Giggling, we would gather in my room in our flannel Christmas pajamas and sit on the floor with our wide eyes glued to my PollyPocket Cuckoo clock. Resolutely, we watched the blue second hand tick around and around and around until it at long last, it was finally time! We would burst into my parent’s bedroom and elatedly drag them towards the jubilant glow of our Christmas tree, where stacks of pre-sorted gifts [you’re welcome, family!] sat waiting. Dad would read us the Christmas story, and we would light every candle in the house because in my family, special occasions mean Yankee Candles.
This year, Christmas makes me ache because there’s not a thing about it that doesn’t remind me of Ian. As Bing Crosby dreams of a White Christmas and the Grinch’s small heart grows three sizes, my heart feels like bursting from missing my little brother. Everything conjures a flood of old memories, from picking out a tree and carefully hanging ornaments one by one [I always rearranged Ian’s when he wasn’t looking], to the teasing scent of gingersnaps lacing the frosty air.[Oh, he loved them!] Every carol, every wreath, every snowflake reminds me of a little brother who I will never wake up on Christmas morning again.
And so I sit with my nose pressed to the glass, watching happy families revel in the magic of the season as I ache and try to muddle through somehow. Maybe that’s your story this year, too. And as I sit, I think that I’ve never understood-never felt Christmas quite this deeply before. You see, I think Christmas belongs to broken people sitting on the outside. Oh, we aren’t the laughing ones, and you might not catch us at a cookie swap—but we’re the ones that most acutely understand how desperately we need good news of great joy.
My little brother dying of cancer is not the end of his story. It’s not the end of his story because 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son Jesus to live the life that Ian should have lived, and die the death that Ian should have died. Jesus took Ian’s place, so that February 27th in a ICU room would not be the end of Ian’s life—but rather the beginning of eternity spent at HOME with God in heaven. Ian has never really been home for Christmas until now.
I am deeply, profoundly, unspeakably thankful that this Christmas season, there is hope. A weary world can rejoice because in the midst of our pain, Emmanuel [God with us!] came, just as He’d promised He would! I love how “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” puts it:
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
If you are weary and aching and looking at Christmas from the outside in, you and I can still link arms and repeat the sounding joy because friend, there is a reason to. Jesus really came, and He’s really alive. Our broken stories do not end here—He is redeeming ALL things.
Tidings of comfort and joy, indeed.