Have you ever thought about what it feels like to experience the holiday season amidst a difficult circumstance? Maybe you are in a situation right now that seems insurmountable, and you know exactly what I’m talking about. As much as we all would like life to cooperate with us through the changing seasons, the reality is, sometimes we struggle.
I would like to offer a perspective of one very difficult Christmas that our family experienced in 2013. It occurred in the middle of our recovery season, and for the five of us, had the potential of derailing the seedlings of hope and progress that had begun to sprout in our lives.
What happened, however, was a miracle.
December 20th, 2013
Being in ministry in one way or another for twenty years, Christmas had become a destination instead of a starting point for us. Christmas was comprised of planning, practicing, pushing, decorating, organizing and orchestrating. And, of course, we couldn’t be truly happy unless excessive shopping, wrapping, and baking were thrown in the mix as well. Christmas 2013 has turned out completely different from what our hearts have grown to expect.
As a family, we’ve experienced a holiday season with not one high-pressure engagement on the books. Where hundreds of cards would find their way into our mailbox in the past, now just a few special notes of kindness trickled in. We’ve had no big parties to attend and no productions to orchestrate and lead. Now, with no money in the bank, we’ve been left with a very important decision to make. It’s like our personal identity had attached itself to the busyness of the season. That nonsense has come to an immediate and abrupt halt. This is truly a different kind of Christmas season.
It was different at first because we felt isolated and alone. We watched people hustle and bustle as if they had somewhere important to be and we just didn’t get the memo. It was kind of like being the lost kid in the crowded mall searching for someone who would claim us. What we found when we quieted our hearts was much more profound.
We’d been given a new perspective of Christmas.
We discovered a faced of our precious Savior we’d not touched upon before in our hectic holiday frolic in the past. Our fragile family looked at each other huddled around the Christmas tree knowing that we were momentarily estranged and penniless; miraculously something in our hearts changed. Christmas became the manifestation of grace and unconditional love personified. In our broken and uncomfortable state, we touched the stuff of heaven.
It wasn’t a loud and boisterous declaration, but more a quiet revelation that happened in the still of the night, a very reminiscent echo of our Savior’s birth those many years ago. “This is why He came, and “Jesus is the reason we celebrate in the first place,” were words that rolled off our lips as we got a real life lesson from Emmanuel, “God with us.” And like those lonely and outcast shepherds that special night two thousand years ago, we were invited to see the wonder of God. The multi-billion dollar holiday machine that we had contributed to for years got simplistic and personal. Jesus came knocking, and we were quiet enough to listen and respond.
(Excerpt taken from the book EXPOSED, chapter 7, “Don’t lose heart.”)
The above words were written as a journal entry that essentially gives a direct and vulnerable glimpse into the heart of our family during a difficult season. A family just like so many that we drive by on the streets where we live, or stand in line next to at the grocery store; precious people with real and unique struggles who are looking for answers amidst the holiday rush and festivities.
May we all be open to the grace and unconditional love personified in the person of Jesus Christ this Christmas season and not run past the quiet and transformative posture that allows us, and those around us, to encounter, Emmanuel.
If you would like a further look into our story of recovery in the book EXPOSED, visit our Resources Page.