No other time of year encompasses so great a dichotomy of feelings. For many, we are in the midst of the happiest time of the year, for others the most sorrowful. For the vast majority, I think it is safe to say that the holidays come wrapped in an intermingled mixture of both. We are sorrowful yet rejoicing, pained yet laughing, feeling both the good and the bad of the past year.
Christmas is a season that lends towards remembering all that happened in the previous year, and the depth of our happiness at Christmas is often measured by the losses and blessings we have sustained in the past twelve months. The pain of any type of loss is hardest at the holidays. The absence of a loved one is most noticed and palpable. The sting of poverty, infertility, loneliness, divorce, and yes, chronic pain and illness, are all magnified tenfold this time of the year. But the same is true of the good. Newborn babies, financial success, in-tact families, and new jobs all give abundant reason to make the celebrations all the more grand and all the more special.
Christmas magnifies our joys and heightens our losses. Whatever we are feeling, we start to feel it more at Christmas.
I had intended to write through and process some of the best and worst memories of this past year, but I will save it for another time. Because in all honesty, this past year feels somewhat like a blur, the memories seeping together at the edges. It will be important to separate the pieces out later, but for now my mind is simply feeling everything, all that has happened, as an amalgamated and unprocessed mess. It is all there, it is all unprocessed, but at least for now, it is not bogging me down. I simply know it exists, and that I will have to do something about it later.
Bad things happened this year. I quit my main job because of my health. I spent more days than I can count barely able to leave the couch. I felt a lot of physical pain and experienced a lot of loss.
Abundant blessings happened this year. I was able to keep my other job, a job I absolutely love. I started this blog and made plans to write a book. I have been surrounded by family and friends who are loving and caring.
And taking it all together, my desire is simply to experience Christmas as it is, Christmas as it naturally flows from what I have experienced this past year. I am simply feeling what I am feeling and knowing that it is normal to feel both happiness and sadness together. I am not trying to turn Christmas into something that it is not, pretending this year has been filled with rainbows and butterflies. I am not placing expectations on this Christmas that it will be like other Christmases I have experienced at the end of years that held mostly joy and success. This will be a Christmas of both sorrow and joy, and that is the way I think it should be, for me, this year.
This is not a Christmas of all happiness, but it is also not a Christmas of all sorrow. It is both, simultaneously and together.
And this intermingling of sorrow and joy seems fitting because the birth that we are celebrating holds more joy than we can imagine, but also more sorrow than has ever been felt. We are celebrating God coming to earth, becoming human, and humbling himself to become a child. We are celebrating loss. Loss in which our Lord humbled himself to the point of poverty and pain. Loss in which Christ bore the physical agony of the cross, felt the wrath of God and was forsaken by Him.
We are celebrating the experience of unmatched loss, but also the bringing of unparalleled joy. And so it is fitting, that as we celebrate, we feel both the losses and the blessings, the agonies and the ecstasies.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.