It’s past midnight and the house has grown still. The glow of multi colored lights from the Christmas tree darkens until the sun rises.
Traditionally, this midnight has come with the heights of anticipation, with the wildest, sweetest dreams, with the urge to squeeze every last song, book, scene, Christmas favorite.
Favorite ornaments from magical times decorating branches, the rush to find Baby Jesus in the Nativity scene; these and many more traditions continue. But they don’t feel the same. I still love the holiday and the atmosphere of the season. But with each year that passes it becomes harder to live in that one-of-a-kind magic.
So I sit here watching the final scenes of classic White Christmas with its class and tones reminiscent of a day gone by. The traditional breakfast – moved to Christmas Eve dinner this year – of candied bacon + cinnamon rolls still lingers in recent memory. I move quickly over the pages of stories told, favorites revisited containing powerful messages about the real Christmas.
The one that gets buried instantly. The very one I am fighting to recall.
And slowly I sift through the things my soul has captured in this Advent season through all this.
I’ve learned that it’s about the quiet moments, not necessarily that sparkling head to toe joy anymore. Soft prayers in the lines of time-honored hymns. Simple messages in predictable yet loveable Hallmark movies. The way your favorite coffee shop is in full Christmas glory and festiveness.
I’ve learned that it’s about letting go of expectations. Reality plays out more like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, where everything that could possibly go wrong does. Where the cute ideal picture of acting out the Christmas story turns into an uncovering and retelling of the truth behind it. Where smoke fills the church, and the wise men fight over getting to the baby first. Where though the wings may be bent and the entrances be less angelic and calm, there is something more beautiful and real here.
I’ve learned that this season cannot bear the weight of your hopes and isn’t designed to. All the traditions and holiday classics in the world will not hold your dreams. Living in the somedays of eventually having it all together will not do this either. However, this season is designed to point us to Emmanuel, God with us, working in us, creating art and exceeding our deepest hopes.
I’ve learned that it’s not about me and the sentiments I wish for. As White Christmas shows, that holiday joy comes from being about the people, for the greater good, and making your corner of the world a richer place. We are to love others bravely and extravagantly, finding joy in loving the stories in front of us instead of constantly chasing more.
I’ve learned that it’s good to stumble across old words about this season and find them true again:
“As humans, we are the accumulation of every conversation we’ve ever been a part of, every experience we’ve had, and every person we’ve met. Community is all around us. Love is present in every little piece of our lives. When you realize your life is the sum of every other thing in your life, and you can have an impact on someone else every day, you can then start to look outside of yourself for answers. You can look at the big picture and see the small moments. This winter, I promise to make my holiday season about the small moments. The quiet moments. The ones when I find myself smiling, beaming for no reason. Even if I do struggle inside, there is beauty raging like a hope-filled fire around me. And I will look to that fire—the one that I helped light just by being present in the lives and experiences of others. In this moment, I am my greatest self because I can see outside of myself.”
In this Moment: Hope for the Holidays
To Write Love on Her Arms blog
I’ve learned that there is hope in brokenness because of Emmanuel.
“Friends, all may not be calm or bright in our broken world, but all is His. May Christ overshadow our expectations and understanding with His presence. May we hear and receive the same good news delivered to Mary: Hope is born within us through Christ. Hallelujah.” She Reads Truth.
And Emmanuel shall come again with us to dwell. So I live out my days in light of this hope, this perspective. With patience (as the ornament pictured so perfectly encapsulates life right now), knowing that hope is born within despite all the mess, unknowns, and dreams.
A very merry Christmas and beyond friends. May you find hope in brokenness.