I know a beautiful, God-loving family who lost their son in a tragic car accident 2 years ago this week. Two weeks before Christmas. My heart turns inside my chest. I can’t imagine what they have pulled themselves through, by the sweet grace of God.
Three years ago this January, I watched my Aunt Deb, who I loved so dearly, die slowly. Over the Christmas season we watched her changed from the vibrant, happy, outgoing woman everyone wanted to be around – to bed-ridden and unable to speak or respond to us; cancer greedily sucking the life right out of her. Friends, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.
I chatted with my Grandma on the phone the other day. I love my Grandma. She chuckled mildly at my retelling of our daily antics and listened as I jammered on about baking this and that and how the kids had poured flour everywhere but it was still fun. I commented how Christmas was so busy sometimes – that we had to work hard to really embrace and enjoy. Her response shocked me, “Oh well – I’d just as soon get rid of the whole thing anyways,” she bluntly stated. “Grams! You mean, Christmas?!” She laughs, “Oh well… I don’t really have much need for it…”
Christmas is not always ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. I know my Grandma is only reminded of the loss of her daughter three years ago – and it is harshly painful. When I talk to my Mom, she’s teary-eyed too. I don’t have to ask to know why the tears well up – they’re for her sister, taken too soon, taken at 50. We are reminded how, on Christmas, Aunt Deb would always wear red in her sweater, and on her freshly manicured nails – looking gorgeous, as usual. She’d decorate her dinner table fit for Kings and Queens, Josh Groban softly crooning Holiday ballads from the stereo. There would be fresh poinsettias on the corner table and a box of Lindor lovingly placed above every person’s plate setting. She’d bicker with my Uncle Tony while finishing up the meal preparations and we’d all chuckle. After dinner – peculated coffee, Grandma’s pies, and then – the After Eight chocolates. My heart burns inside my chest for my Aunt Deb at Christmas. And I know I’m not alone.
For so many of us, this season is a bitter sweet reminder of those we no longer hold. Those who’ve left a hallow spot by the fireplace… those who do not wake to the twinkle of an expectant Christmas tree. Those who are not here for us to tell them we love them. For some, there are deep regrets of what wasn’t said, done, reconciled, shared. For others, there’s a slow and steady beat of a grace drum – the pain so deep, so piercing… they know things are going to be okay, but wonder still – how?
My lists of gifts quickly turn to the silliest things. Yes, I’ve thanked God for Curious George. And I know some Moms can relate. *smile* But, I want to be transparent with you this Christmas… I want to focus on the little blessings, sure. It’s so important for us to notice the small, seemingly insignificant presents – because they make up life’s heartbeat and bring pure joy in the everyday.
But – really, this season, I want to view Christmas in light of Eternity. There is a radiant gift wrapped in glorious shimmering light, with a giant bow and a tag with MY NAME scrolled in God’s own hand-writing. It’s screaming “OPEN ME!”. This is the kind of present God graciously pours down through my soul-chimney.
The gift of Jesus. The gift of eternity with Him, if we believe. And I believe. And when we look at our lost ones and our loved one with the Eternity View, something shifts deeply inside of us. The pain is easier to bear. The losses, still heavy, are made lighter on our shoulders. The symbols of Christmas – the decorations, the traditions, the dinners, the gifts, all of it – all of it is useless, if not in light of Eternity. If all isn’t received with open palms and a whisper within of “Thank you Jesus… thank you for these gifts, all this grace, undeserved – everything… everything in light of You.”
I trust our children will be bouncing and giggling at 6 am on Christmas morning. My husband and I will be stumbling down the stairs, clearing the sleep to open our eyes wide to the moment. We’ll embrace loved ones we haven’t seen in too long. We’ll smile wide as we give the perfect, love-inspired box. We’ll share morning prayers for our friends in Uganda, enjoying their own blessed moments. We, by God’s will, can share special times – times we’ll never repeat. Times you can’t get back or do-over.
Life is a gift. Fickle. Gone in an instant. I was jolted into that reality when I literally watched a loved-one die in front of my very eyes. I don’t want to forget the truth that saturated my bones during that season of my life. It changed me. I can’t forget – this life is not certain. This Christmas is now. I’m not promised another one. None of us are.
Unwrap the gift of life this Christmas. Bow low and dare to be deeply grateful just to be part of this season. To be given the chance to just be. Breathe in and out in light of Eternity… close your eyes at night in light of Eternity. Sit by a twinkling tree and let tears flow – in light of Eternity. Make cookies and Christmas cake with the children (and make a huge mess)- in light of Eternity. Bless others – in light of Eternity. Dress your son like Joseph for the Christmas pageant and laugh at that silly towel tied to his head – yes, do even that, in light of Eternity. Raise hands to heaven and thank Him – in light of Eternity.
This is not all there is. Earth is a footstool. I live expectant for what is to come. That every morning with Jesus will be Christmas, over and over and over. That the most warm and wonderful feelings here on earth are but glimmers of what He has prepared for this who love Him. My brow furrows and tears stream down. I’m smiling and preparing to make Christmas memories this day. And I literally bounce out of my blogging seat, with a bursting, grateful heart for the gift of that babe- wrapped in Mary’s arms that cold, cold night. And for my beautiful babes – wrapped in my arms today.
Thank you Jesus – may we all embrace Christmas, but only in light of the eternal gift we have in You. We are invited to unwrap this grace daily… and I’m overwhelmed.
In His Grace,