I love Christmas.
For me, the promise of the holiday and all of the sentimentality and religious significance that this season holds is one of the reasons I look forward to December the whole year through. Hanging lighted garlands from the balconies, coming home each night down a street with houses decked in festive lights and the way the air feels as the excitement of Christmas morning draws closer. My son's ability to discuss the story of the Nativity and the sweet songs he sings about Jesus' birth lend a much-needed reminder of why we celebrate in the first place.
But, as I was reminded today, the most meaningful and exciting time of year can also be one of the most painful for those who may have fallen on hard times financially or, even more painful, lost a loved one--causing bittersweet emotions of sorrow, longing... A woman for whom our small group at church had been praying passed away today. At the young age of 45, she was already a grandmother four times over and was the glue that held her family together. Last month, her life was normal and I'm sure she was planning what to buy her grandchildren for Christmas. Today, she passed away around 3pm of complications from a cancer that spread rapidly through her body. How could she go down hill so fast...and, right here at Christmas...leaving behind a stunned network of family and friends for whom this holiday has taken a tragic turn.
I also found out that a 2 1/2 year old girl also passed away this weekend. Suffering since birth by an unkind disease that left her disabled, this angel is no longer in pain but has left behind a gaping hole of sadness in the hearts of those who knew and loved her. Likewise, I have been guilty of breaking down while decorating the tree or hearing a particular Beach Boys tune and wishing my mother were here so badly that I thought my heart would burst.
But, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the good things that God is doing in the lives around me. A close friend of mine got "the call" they had been waiting on and will be heading to Utah in February to adopt a baby boy when he's born. My heart swelled with excitement as I shared with her the joy of this special kind of "pregnancy"... and, as we wrap a special gift to present to her parents as an announcement, I smile as I think what a special Christmas memory this will be for their family. Then there's the picture of my niece as she grasped an ornament in her tiny little hands...or my son parading around the house in his Santa costume declaring that he's about to hand out the "first...gift...of...Christmas!" (ala Polar Express)
For many, this truly is the "most wonderful time of the year..." but, let us not forget those that may be a little sad and brokenhearted as well. May God comfort them and tuck in their hearts a peace that only He can give...