Every year the presents under our tree get smaller … and more expensive. This is my new reality as a parent of a teen and tween. The cheap(ish) plastic stuff covered with the most popular Disney character is no more in our house. We no longer need to put out the Little People nativity set or read about “Olive the Other Reindeer.” Christmas is changing in our house.
Truthfully, I don’t mind as it simplifies the buying process and what goes under the tree is now actually useful. But it’s made me think about my own wish list and what I would really love to add to it, but would never presume to do so … because my wishes are even smaller and more expensive, and some of them can’t be wrapped at all.
I’ve had several teary moments throughout this month of December as I see all the ways my family is changing, and with them our traditions. We’re only a couple years out from the beginning of the empty nest syndrome. Gah! We have aging grandparents who will no longer be able to host family gatherings and traditions will need to be re-evaluated next year. It’s wrecking me. And these are just my things. So many of the people I love are struggling through the holidays, navigating changes even more overwhelming than my own.
Change is in the wind and I rarely anticipate it unless I’m the one to initiate it. Especially when it involves those traditions that give us a sense of belonging and permanence.
Looking back on Christmases past is kind of like looking back on the births of my children, I think. I remember the outings to look at lights, the fun in the kitchen, the family gathered on Christmas morning to open presents, and more. I forget about the chaos leading up to all of that and the amount of preparation it took to pull all of those things off. Most of all, I had no idea what value those sweet memories would hold even a short year later.
We hurdle along in life at an alarming pace until we happen upon changes in the most unexpected places. We constantly pivot and adjust and try to keep up with expectations, whether they’re our own or someone else’s. At some point we have to sit down and catch our breath, to take it all in and search for goodness in this new place where we’ve landed. And sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to “have a moment.” And I think that’s where I am this Christmas … having a moment.
I kind of want to have a little tantrum and say it’s not fair. While that’s not untrue, having a tantrum about it all won’t change anything. *Disgruntled sigh.*When Christmas brings change ... will we throw a tantrum, or will hold onto the hope that was there all along?Click To Tweet
It’s a lovely invitation from Jesus and I’ve been pushing against it. Instead I found myself running headlong in the busyness of the season, distracting myself with social media and work that could wait.
When I was still I came face to face with all the things I’d rather not think about. I felt angry and sad and overwhelmed. I didn’t like it one little bit.
I turned on the lights on the Christmas tree. I listened to my favorite Christmas song—O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I realized I’d been functioning without hope, trying to pep talk myself through the holidays and mind-over-matter my way through my sadness.
Without the hope of Emmanuel, who wouldn’t want to keep running and welcoming distractions? Seeing God with us, embracing that truth and all of the hope that it holds, is kind of like turning on the lights on the Christmas tree … the lights fill the voids and can cause even the cheapest, oldest ornaments to take on new life and beauty. And that’s what God is waiting to do for us.
God with us.
It might be my very favorite name for God—Emmanuel—God with us. Here in the middle of sadness, the very name of God offers hope and joy.Emmanuel ... it's not just a name. It's a promise. God with us.Click To Tweet
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.