Growing up, Christmas Eve was the most anticipated day of the year in our household. From start to finish the day was jam packed full of traditions, including my favorite one – eating Christmas dinner in our pajamas in front of the fireplace and tree, right before opening all of our gifts.
Can you think of any childhood traditions that you longed for each year? Chances are you have more than one. Traditions make us feel safe and loved. They give us something to look forward to year after year. As a new mama, I often dream of the traditions we will start with our little Lucy, knowing that we are shaping her childhood with these special repetitive experiences.
But there is another, more broken, side to traditions. These much-anticipated events also have a way of reminding us of pain and loss. The death of a child, divorced parents, strained relationships.
5 years ago, my parents divorced. The first Christmas Eve without my dad was anything but joyful. We went through the motions of our traditions, but instead of feeling comfort I felt loss. There was an empty seat at our fireplace dinner. There was one less stocking hung on the mantle. There were four, not five, sets of Christmas pajamas. It seemed everything I once eagerly awaited I now dreaded. The pain was deep and unshakeable. No amount of “normalcy” could make Christmas feel familiar.
Everything felt wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
As I have gotten older, it seems that each year I’m reminded more and more of the temporal nature of our world. Gifts that were once new have been tossed out. Relationships that once felt safe now feel foreign. The memories of merry Christmases act as a mirror reflecting back all of the brokenness around me with extra clarity. Divorce, death, sickness, infidelity, miscarriage, painful words, conflict – none of these things were God’s design for our world. All of us in our hearts have a faint memory of what Eden was like when we beg with God, “it ought not be this way!”
And, friend, you’re right. The pain and loss you may be experiencing during the “happiest time of the year” ought not be. But it is. Because back in the garden, we believed the greatest lie we’ve ever been told – God isn’t good. When sin and death and sickness entered the world, our hope was lost. But God, being rich in mercy, didn’t leave us there. Yes, he sent us out of the Garden – the place we long for – but he didn’t leave us without a way back in. In a few days we will celebrate the day when Hope came down. The day a Savior – the Son of the Most High - was born.
Jesus in all of His glory left the perfection of heaven and entered into our mess and sin. But he didn’t stop there. After living a perfect life he died an undeserved death on the cross and absorbed the curse of sin and death on our behalf so you and I could have life to the full now and forevermore.
If you feel crushed by the weight of loss, death, divorce, or brokenness this Christmas, rest knowing that in Jesus you have hope. Despite the pain and suffering you can sing songs of praise because He has and He will right every wrong. During this holiday season we are reminded of all the brokenness that seems to surround us. In the midst of this temporary broken state of our world we can confidently put our hope in that which is not broken and that which is eternal. Jesus, the Son of the Most High, will reign forever and of his Kingdom there will be no end.
This Christmas, we remember the Garden, we mourn the brokenness in our homes and world, and we eagerly await the eternal Kingdom of Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus!
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
- What are some of your favorite traditions from past Christmases?
- What fears, pain, or suffering are you carrying into this Christmas season?
- How does the truth of the Gospel shape the way you suffer or mourn? How does it change the way you relate to family members who have disappointed you?
Kaitlin Holland is the founder of The School of Styling, the Co-Owner of the McAlister-Leftwich House, and a creative business mentor who lives in North Carolina with her husband, Clay, and baby girl, Lucy. She was saved by Grace and she's on a mission to extravagantly love and serve those who are put in her path.