A thought keeps running through my mind.

 “I wish holiday stress was just about getting the right gifts, hosting family, and managing a full schedule of parties and commitments. Anything but THIS.”

I don’t know what your THIS is.

In the past, our THIS has been the worry of premature birth and a traumatic delivery. The hope for a newborn foster-to-adopt child we prepared our hearts and homes for, but did not meet. The loss of our baby Olivia, and the trauma of a rupture and emergency surgery. The year after year after year of loss and infertility, and Christmases without a new, anticipated child.

And now we are facing the imminent change to the makeup of our family. We anticipate loss, grief and heartache. All while Christmas stares us down and demands us to be “merry.”

Of course we have had good Christmases too. But there is just something extra hard about the trauma of loss during the holiday season.

I don’t know what your “this” is. Perhaps it is strained family relations. Maybe you too are facing a Christmas without a loved one. Maybe it is a deployment or a move or a cancer diagnosis. Maybe it is financial constraints that feel crushing. Perhaps the loss of a livelihood, or a child who is caught up in addiction.

I have no idea what your hard is.
But as I went to church today, reminding myself not to cry my eyes out the whole time, I thought about what Christmas really is.

The birth of a baby, sure. God’s son. And I always saw it as such a happy time. And for us whose lives have been saved and transformed by this baby, of course, it is a happy time of remembering.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son ….

I always think of the “giving” part of the Gospel as Calvary, because that is where our salvation was made possible. But the giving away part didn’t happen on the cross.

It came on Christmas Day.

The sacrifice was made the moment God sent his son, His ONLY son with whom he had spent eternity with already, to come to an earth where he would be persecuted, hated, misunderstood, taken advantage of, and eventually killed.

I wonder at God the Father’s heart. Was it broken at saying good-bye, even for a time? 

As our family prepares to say good-bye to our only son we’ve known, I find comfort in the fact that I am not alone.

God himself knows what it feels like to entrust his most precious son to someone else to raise, even while knowing that the world would not be safe.

So as you and I walk through our hard, let us remember that Christmas is not only about merry and bright, tinsel and trees, or even about mangers and Mary.

Christmas is the start of the hard God Himself walked through, for the sake of his glory and eternity. 

We may feel alone this holiday season. But may we take every moment we can to remember Immanuel — God with us.

Not just with us in the merry. But with us in the hard too.

May you each have a purposeful Christmas where you feel the powerful presence of Christ in your “THIS” — whatever your THIS is.

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