It’s that time of year when we are busy decking the halls (I’m still not entirely sure what that means, but… tis’ the season to do it.) Fa la la la la.
Its a little different for me this year. It seems all of my four children are in a life transition. All of it is good, but definitely they are in a phase whereby the expectation of the season involves their growing, while mine is cutting back. Its a pretty good bet, that until grandchildren come someday, my days of waiting for Santa are on hiatus.
There has been another transition too that I discovered as I dragged down from my attic all the bins labeled in black marker, “Xmas.” Every December, I begin the task of recreating a winter wonderland of nick knacks and special whatnots that have been a part of our Christmases for years. I would be lying if I did not admit that this brings about a certain sadness mixed with comfort, as unlike years past, my little ones are no longer rocking around my Christmas tree. I’m pretty much on my own here.
Such is the fate of our angel, the one that adorned the top of whatever tree we selected to grace the same space in my living room for decades. She, unfortunately, succumbed to the demise that all electronic gizmos eventually do, and stopped working. No longer does light shine out of her hands, illuminating her dress. No longer does the serenity of her ceramic face seem, well… angelic.
My quest to find a replacement had me trek back and forth from one store to another, settling on a smaller, less “holy” version. (It seems China may have skipped the step in manufacturing that makes angels appear benevolent, rather than apathetic.)
The thing about all this, is not, of course, the angel. I don’t need a doll-like figure at the top of my tree to signify what is in my heart. I know that the reason for the season is the birth of Christ. I know that, in reflection, because of Him, I have so very much to be thankful for. I have blessings beyond measure for which I am eternally grateful.
It’s more, I think, that transitions always have consequences that can be a bit difficult. That doesn’t mean that they are not good or healthy. It is just that they come at the expense of letting go of old comforts, versions of ourselves and of our lives that are sometimes hard to do.
With every year of setting up a tree, with every ornament hung, hearing the music in the background that accompanies this ritual, I can’t help but think of so many other Christmas seasons that were flush with excitement, with love overflowing, with lists and hot chocolate and Good Behavior Charts.
My house is a much quieter, subdued ode to this tradition now.
It kind of makes me wonder, if maybe the spirit of that old, wonderful angel didn’t just quit working, but rather decided to go off in search of another, livelier home where frolicking still abounds.
The truth is, what I know about the Season, is that there is wonder and light and renewal. The joy we have is for what God is doing in us, for us, and around us. We can dwell in our difficulties, or thank God that He is bringing us out of them. We can be grateful for Christmases past, and look forward to what He is bringing us to that we will rejoice in the future. And we can find joy in what we have before us right now, even when the angel on top of our tree looks a little less than what we imagine she should.
How do we push past the memories, the days of yesteryear when all was jolly and bright, and not feel a touch of sadness? I honestly wish I knew. Sometimes, we are allowed to be melancholy, as long as we don’t stop believing that God is not done with us or or circumstances.
It helps to think of the very first Christmas. You know the one. Jesus was in a manger, and Mary’s birthing suite was a far cry from luxury. She didn’t have an epidural or monitors, and I’m pretty sure that Joseph wasn’t rubbing her back, coaching her how to breathe. All she had was the promise that what she was carrying, her son, would be the Light of the World.
It’s the same for us. Sometimes, the promise is all we have.
He would come so that we can stand in faith and know that in Him we are not alone. He is in all our joys, all our sorrows, all our transitions… He is growing us, changing us, moving us so that we can experience more of Him, not less. And, in giving to us, we are to give to others so that they may also experience hope and grace and belonging.
Maybe that is the lesson here. Not the hustle and bustle. Not the animation of perfect holiday cheer. Maybe it is in the quiet, after all. And in the remembering of all that He has done for us.
Maybe the angel is there to remind us to look up, to thank Him, to share with Him all that we hope for and believe.
Sometimes, the best gifts are those we don’t deserve but are given to us because we are loved. Naughty or nice, happy or sad… we are His.
May your heart overflow with glad tidings regardless of what is beneath or around your tree. And may the angel on top always remind you that things are not always what they look like, but what He is doing in our midst even when we don’t see it yet.
Rejoice, therefore, in all that was, all that is, and all that is to come.