Tomorrow is Christmas. The excitement in our house is palatable, and its not just the kids. Christmas is my favorite celebration and I love this whole season, which feels extra special at the end of this challenging year.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a difficult year, but to be perfectly honest, on a personal level I can think of harder years for us.
2012 comes to mind, when we lost Faith, our first child who we held only once in this world. That Christmas Steve gave me a necklace with her birthstone, a single pearl in a gold teardrop, and I smiled and cried at the same time.
2017 was difficult too, when we found out that our third daughter would be born with a complex heart defect, which in itself was a miracle after we were originally told she wouldn’t live at all. That Christmas we visited Hope in the hospital, holding our tiny baby with the scar down her chest, celebrating in a way I never could have imagined. I was happy to be with her, yet terrified of what her future might hold.
C.S. Lewis describes joy as distinct from happiness or pleasure. Joy, he says, “must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.”
I know what he means.
On our first Christmas without Faith I clung to joy, not as a feeling but as a promise from God that one day the tears I shed for my daughter would be wiped away; that one day I would hold her again. And so joy met my mourning and was made more poignant through it.
On our first Christmas with Hope I searched for joy, aching for comfort to ease the helplessness I felt over my tiny baby and her complicated heart. And so joy met my fear, though I couldn’t always see it, in the constancy of God’s presence, even when I felt far from Him.
This Christmas I watch our girls dance around the living room in the glow of the Christmas tree and I think about the challenges this year brought, and how we’ve journeyed through it together, and I feel a rush of happiness.
But there are tears behind the surface as the words of an old Christmas song strike a chord in my heart, because this year, like every other trial we face, is a reminder of the brokenness of this world. And so joy meets the brokenness and I am filled with that stab and pang and inconsolable longing – knowing that one day the world will no longer be broken and hoping for that day to be soon.
As we celebrate Christmas tomorrow we will do so with the excitement and happiness and love of family that makes the day so special, but more importantly with the joy that comes from Christ.
Because God stepped into this broken world in the form of a little baby, His own Son, who He gave for us to be Emmanuel and Savior.
Because He loves us with such a love that we cannot fathom; a love that prepares a place for us and wraps around us and never leaves us, no matter what this life may bring.
Because when we celebrate Jesus’ birth we remember how the angels declared good news of great joy and that joy is our strength, our promise, and our hope still today.
That joy cannot be drowned out by grief, overshadowed by fear, or overcome by brokenness. That joy is filled with the pang of longing for the future, but made strong by the knowledge that one day the future we long for will come to be.
That joy is undefeatable.