On Thursday, two volunteer firefighters died battling the blaze that is encroaching upon my city.
On Saturday, I visited a friend who was recently in a motorcycle accident. Between the broken bones and lacerations, he’s fortunate to be alive. He needs more surgery on Boxing Day and faces weeks of recovery after that.
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a beloved 91-year-old woman from our church.
Today is Christmas Eve.
As much as we try to manufacture cheer this time of year, the waves of tragedy don’t stop just because it’s Christmas. There is no rest for the grieving, the scared, the hurting.
Do we try to mask our grief in cheery carols? Is the constant stream of Hallmark Christmas movies meant to help us escape from our stories that don’t get wrapped up so neatly? Do we covet expensive gifts to hide our constant ache for something more lasting?
The older I get, the less Christmas satisfies me. I still love the season, but I’m left feeling that nothing quite lives up to the hype. In the past this reality would have depressed me, and I’d desperately try to recapture the childhood wonder of Christmas.
But this year, I’ve been realising that there’s actually more joy in facing up to this disappointment. I can acknowledge the darkness that lurks at the edge of all the holiday snapshots, without fearing it.
There’s no point in ignoring this darkness or trying to cover it with a layer of false cheer. It’s real. We cannot insulate ourselves from pain forever. We cannot ward off sickness and conflict and tragedy by serving the perfect roast meal. But we can take these disasters and entrust them to God.
In the coming of Jesus “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)
Jesus entered willingly into this world of suffering, and died to reconcile me to God. I now belong to the coming kingdom which will never fail or disappoint. Even if the worst was to happen this Christmas it would not change the steadfast hope I have through Jesus, a hope which does not put us to shame (Romans 5:5).
So in this hope we find something more certain than wishlists, more lasting than Christmas Day.
Anyone who knows me might be thinking at this point that I’ve had a personality transplant. After all, I’m the one who always has overflowing Christmas spirit before most people have even started thinking about Halloween.
But I can actually find more joy in all the trimmings of Christmas when I’m not worried about being disappointed. I don’t expect these twinkling lights to overcome the darkness, but they can bring a little joy in the midst of it by pointing us to God as the source of all good things.
Whatever this Christmas brings—whether it be joy, love, frustration, or tragedy—nothing can destroy the hope I have because Jesus came into our world.