When it still doesn’t feel like Christmas

So you aren’t feeling the Christmas spirit. It is the eve of Christmas Eve and something isn’t right. Maybe the weather, maybe the exhaustion, maybe this year isn’t at all ending the way you were hoping it would. You started the year expectant in some way, and you are realizing that the end of the year will come with your hands still open, empty waiting.

Come Lord Jesus Come.

You have faithfully lit the candles for hope, for peace, for joy, for love. You sang the songs, or didn’t. You read the readings, or got interrupted trying. You didn’t miss a single day opening the tiny doors and pulling out the chocolates because your five year old wouldn’t let you. You wish that sweetness symbolized something you could point out this Christmas, but mostly December has just been hard. You are so tired.

You are just so tired. Come Lord Jesus Come.

In past years you have felt by now, that the waiting is almost over. But this year is different. Two days before Christmas and you just feel like you have been waiting forever.

You think on the words, hope, peace, joy, love. You realize you have been chasing them in your mini-van. There were times this season you could maybe see them.

You found hope. Your kids were invited to a live nativity, and when you chided them for getting too close and asking too many questions, they were invited to stand right next to the manger, to talk to Mary and Joseph and ask questions of the angel. To come look and see if the baby Jesus really was there after all. You got teary eyed on the sidewalk outside of an old country church your in-laws were married in. You felt, just for a fleeting second God reminding you that you were allowed to come in and ask questions too. That this was holy, but not untouchable, that you have always been invited and you weren’t going to mess it up with your honesty. Your kids and you got invited inside to have cookies and hot chocolate. Three separate church ladies listened attentively as your oldest rattled on and on. They were so sorry to see her leave. They were delighted by her and her holding forth. You were reminded that God is delighted in you too.

You found peace for just a moment on a country rode. You are trying to keep a tradition alive, even as the traditional giver has passed. You just hope it is enough. And on the way home, while the radio played melancholy Christmas songs, sung wistfully by crooners of the past, you are sure that this small thing was done with great love, and you are so sure that it is enough. That you are enough, at least in this moment.

There was joy that one night. You put the girls in their matching PJs and piled everyone in the minivan with to-go cups full of hot chocolate. Your husband remembers where all the really good lights are, and they are but it may not have mattered. The girls ooh and ahh over even the smallest light displays. They don’t even mind when we hit a cul-de-sac and they have to see it all over again. They squeal and point and tell us to slow down. They want to get a better look. They just like it so much.

And maybe it isn’t okay or popular to say, but it seems that this year you found love in the mall. A generous gift from a generous friend who just saw how hard you were struggling turned into a trip to Build-a-Bear with enough YES left over to bring an extra kiddo. You do the math and think you might have to pay extra for the sparkly shoes, but the girls just want them so bad. The stuffed animals end up coming home with their shooes and a leash and beds to sleep on, all under budget. So you say YES again to the train, and you watch as a teenage boy leaves his friends, who are sort of rolling their eyes at him, to high five a kid who is just totally starstruck by this. You watch as the people in the food-court sipping on lattes wave at your kids and make them feel like celebrities. Your heart melts a little as you choose to loosen your grip on old grudges and choose train-rides, and Build-a-Bear, and high fives instead.

It is raining on the way home and you have to put the shoes back on the stuffed animals more than once. There is yelling before there is three little girls falling asleep in the back seat. You come back home and the exhaustion sinks in. You suddenly realize there was something you forgot to pack and have it shipped where you are headed next. You accept that this year Christmas will be felt like a flame through a thick glass, dimly and a little skewed. You decide, for once, that it is enough. Maybe it won’t totally feel like Christmas, maybe every dream will not be fulfilled. But Christ has come, and you are invited to come in, to take a closer look. To ask some questions if you need to. You are invited to feel that you are enough, to find the things that delight you, to share the generous gifts. It may not always feel the way you want it to. That is okay. You can choose it anyway.

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