As we pulled into the parking lot of Hobby Lobby (our most favorite store,) I got a call from Josh who was at home with the other kids. Apparently Aggie had a seizure while climbing on the bunk bed and fell straight back from the top. She was still having the seizure after she fell, so for several minutes she just laid there unaware of any pain at all. Both of the little boys knew this was NOT normal and were making a huge fuss about it. It took her about a half hour to really notice her aches and pains, and she spent the rest of the night snuggling daddy on the couch. As Josh and I talked about this, the familiar ache in my heart for Aggie returned, and the laundry list of worries I have for her future began to replay in my head. (She was a little bruised but otherwise just fine the next day.)
I slowly closed the phone and looked at the giddy toddler sitting next to me. “OH mommy I see more Christmas lights in Hobby Lobby! Are you ready? Let's go let's go let's go!”
How does one jump from that phone call back into the joy of Christmas shopping? I was startled by the dissonance I felt, the conflict between the joy of Christmas preparation and the pain that cast dark shadows over it all.
I suspect most adults feel this tension during the holidays. We sense the dissonance between the apparent holiday joy and bliss in every store and every Christmas song, and the feelings of fear, grief, or sadness that we wrestle with in our secret hearts. The festivities of this time of year can make the sorrows seem even deeper, the loneliness even more lonely.
Glitter and bells are out of place, and sometimes downright annoying when paraded in front of our pain. How can we be expected to sparkle with JOY when we all we can see is the huge hole where a loved one used to be? How do we hold on to HOPE when we see sickness in the sunken eyes of our own child?
Christians have always been people acquainted with grief, people whose hearts are sometimes torn with this conflict, yet the church has stubbornly and enthusiastically celebrated Christmas in the darkness year after year. God gave us His very own Son, and we see the nearness of God even in this place of pain. Our God does not stand far away, merely cheering us on through the darkness, He comes to dwell with us right in the middle of it.
This time of year, we are surrounded with tangible reminders of the hope we have because God is with us. Candles flicker and we sing praises to the Light that has come into the world. Bells ring with joy as we remember promises made and fulfilled in Jesus. Glitter sparkles on angel wings and we look forward to the blessings to come when our Lord returns.
We dwell in darkness, but the love of Him who sent His Son shines brightly. And so this year, like every other year, God's children gather together in the night, lift up their heads, light candles, and sing songs at the top of their voices, testifying to the world that God is indeed with us, and the darkness is passing away.