There is a temptation to write off and stuff this old year into an invisible drawer never to be opened again. But I cannot yield to it, for despite the darkness and the stress endured, there has been much beauty in this mottled, troubled year.
There is no way I can turn my heart away from His gifts to us because God gave us so much. So very much. He softened the difficulty of studying and working online from home through the consolation of good health and of our jobs being intact at a time when so many lost their livelihoods, when so many fell ill and too many did not return to life. Yes, like so many, we struggled to make adjustments to stay home orders and to unfair and poorly thought out government directives. But He buoyed us on with hope through happy news concerning our children. At the end of each day, we stumbled away from our laptops and phones, mentally drained from work, upset and frustrated with our employers, little wine left in our barrels.
And God changed water into wine through the miraculous renewal of our family life. He taught us how to lock our gates against trespassers and instead, to turn the gaze of our hearts towards the gem of family, of time spent together.
God gifted us with laughter. Precious laughter.
This year, for every day of anger and hurt, there were ten times more of mirth and joy.
Then, the sky of Advent dawned quietly in the frenzied churn of life. For years, the road to Christmas has been dark for me. Even when the sun began to slowly pierce the winter, the cold and dark hovered too close by. Even as I built fires for everyone else, my own hearth remained unlit.
The light would not come.
Year after year, I would ache in hidden disappointment that God had passed me by yet again, my outstretched heart left empty, my seeking bereft.
This year, not wanting to hope for a miracle (yet going ahead and hoping all the same), I took to heart the words of my friend, Linda Raha, – Make every day Christmas. I decided then and there that my Christmas would be that.
That the Light of Christmas in my hearth would be the Light of Christmas let in for others.
That I would stand by the windows of other hearts and rejoice as the sacred Light of a newborn Babe warmed and healed those spaces. That even when I had to return to my own empty and wind-chilled heart, it would only be to resolutely light and stoke to life fires of thanksgiving and gratitude.
And not forgetting – to gather up more wood to make more Christmas fires for others. Prayers for friends braving so many unsurmountables yet forging forwards in love. Love for those who hate the Jesus they do not know. For those who need Christmas in order to love. For poor muslim friends hiding their poverty behind brave smiles. For the old and the sick in our family, separated from loves by Covid.
That would be my Christmas and that would suffice, I schooled my heart firmly.
Heaven must have smothered a smile at my efforts, and angels surely clapped back their mirth. For they knew what I did not.
On Christmas Day, Heaven spilled Light into my heart.
Not bright, joy-giddy Light, but a different Light. Many Lights. Gentle and playful Lights, little lamps loved and released yet cherished in secret. Lights wan yet so sweet, passed through hearts gone before us. Lights lit from love old and worn from waiting, yet firmly steadfast in the quiet of Hope Eternal.
Today, as the winds blow their last notes among plump, white clouds and sun-drenched swaying boughs, my heart traces the whorls and lines of the old year once more.
It is then that I see something. Strangely, today, none of the old anguish, those dark sentinels which have jealously guarded bitter memories, charge towards me. They are gone. Even as the memory of difficult days remain, the stain of pain is no more.
Pondering this, I recall the words of my pastor in his Christmas Vigil sermon, his heartfelt exhortation to each one of us to pray for a miracle at the Crib of the Wee Child. Taking his words to heart, I had obeyed promptly that night. In spirit at the Crib’s edge, my plea had been direct,
And a miracle it was!
Through the power of the Crib, the old shadows have gone, mysteriously brushed away from my spirit’s sight.
The night grows old now, the last rains of the year fall in final benediction. Poised for flight into the new year, one last look at all that was,
Farewell!–we leave thee to Heaven’s peaceful care…