These are the best hours of the whole year. Not the chaos and hoopla and clatter of joyful children that come with dawn’s first light- while those are wonderful too- what I love most is the soft, pregnant richness of Christmas Eve.
The babies are settled into their beds, tucked in for the tenth time already, their eyes sparkling with anticipation and their teeth chattering with excitement. Sleep won’t come quick for them- but then, neither will it for parents tonight. The house settles down, the old timbers creek and familiar sounds come to rest for the night.
Tomorrow, we will have tired eyes as we follow the bounding bundles of childhood down our curving staircase to see what surprises await- and that is its own type of joy. But for now, I relish the quiet. I relish the solitude, when I can take a few moments and think of what a blessing my life is, how richly the Lord has shed his light in my life, and how profoundly grateful I am for this ultimate gift- finding faith and knowing Jesus Christ.
Three years ago today I wrote the above. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, my favorite holiday, without reservation. Yet, for the first time in my life, I just want Christmas to be over. Last year, still in shock from the new devastation of being in the middle of a divorce, my children and I were carried, quite heavily, on the prayers and love of others. I think the shock and generosity of others cushioned us from a great deal of the pain that was just under the surface. But like all good things, it cannot last forever, and this year, Christmas feels like bone rubbing bone. There is no escape from the fact that our little family is ravaged and scarred. We don’t fit the Normal Rockwell or Currier and Ives- or even Mormon- ideal anymore. And its impossible to hide or gloss over that fact at Christmas.
But so what? None of that matters- and maybe that’s the point. Even amid the grief and loss that springs fresh in the most unlikely places, I am aware of grace. What I can do as the sole functioning parent to three souls will fall far short of what’s needed, yet we will be carried anyway. I am aware, even at my worst, my lowest and least lovable, that God loves me anyway, and this stops me in awe. Perhaps in rushing to get through the pain and have Christmas just be over, I am missing an important lesson. Perhaps walking through and allowing the seasons of life- all of them- to unfold over us is part of carving and honing of the vessel that can eventually hold light.
Tonight, I think of Mary- lying in an unfamiliar place, a single unwed mother, not having the life she may have imagined for herself and facing the abyss as she gave birth to the son of God. We grasp so little of the eternities through the lens of our human eyes, but one lesson I have learned through the immolation of the life I imagined is that erring on the side of love and faith will never lead us astray.