The lights of the Christmas tree blinked in lazy monotony. On. Off. On. Off. Their projected cheeriness mocked me.
Your unborn baby is dead? Don’t care.
You’re having nightmares every night? Don’t care.
The unforgiving stare of the yellow lights—along with every bell-ringing Santa, obnoxious Christmas carol, and irritating rerun of Elf—dared me to react.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It all seemed to scream.
Christmas crept closer and every beautiful thing about it angered me. I’d never felt so alone.
A Painful Year
2019 was a painful year for me. Our family walked—no, stumbled—through three pregnancy losses, the last of which occurred at the end of October. The day I drove away from a follow-up appointment where the doctor assured me that my uterus was, in fact, empty, was the same day Christmas decor started appearing on street lights and store shelves. And as the weeks flew by, I found I cared very little about all the stuff of Christmas. When Christmas day arrived, I realized that, in my fog, there were multiple people I’d forgotten to get gifts for.
And I just didn’t care.
A Weary World
The year 2020 has been full of pain for many. COVID-19 has separated families, destroyed carefully crafted plans, stolen jobs, devastated healthcare systems, overwhelmed and exhausted leaders, ravaged bodies, and ended precious lives.
People have been forced to live alone, die alone, and carry the unbearable weights of anxiety and depression—all alone.
And in the last few weeks, I’ve heard stories of coerced abortions, fathers abandoning women the moment they learn of a pregnancy, and single mothers forced into homelessness.
And now here we are. Christmas is bearing down on us once again, leaving many of us wondering—as I did last year—how can Christmas have the audacity to promise joy when all we feel is pain?
A Season of Waiting
During this season of Advent, I’ve been dwelling on the idea of waiting—a word that has taken on a whole new meaning this year. We’ve spent the last 9 months waiting for an end to this pandemic and every terrible ripple-turned-tidal-wave expanding from its impact. The hardest part of it all is not knowing the when.
When will it all be over?
As I read and reflect on Scripture from the Bible, I see this same sort of restless waiting leading up to the birth of Christ. Promises of a coming Savior had echoed from the mouths of prophets for hundreds and hundreds of years. And yet…nothing. Many still believed. But many also lost hope.
Will a Savior ever come?
Will things ever get better?
In a world that has commercialized Christmas and made it more about “a spirit of giving” or “a time for family,” many of us find when we set our sights on these goals our hope rings hollow. Giving and family and “singing loud for all to hear” are great things—but if a pregnancy loss or the loss of a job or a global pandemic can take those things away, then what hope do we really have?
A Thrill of Hope
The Christmas Carol, O Holy Night, contains one of my favorite lines of any written work:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
This resonates deeply with me, because the only way hope can be described as “a thrill” is if our hearts have reached that place of utter weariness where it feels as if we can’t go on.
It’s when we are at our lowest that we find ourselves most desperate for something—or someone—worth hoping for.
Last Christmas, I couldn’t see beyond my sorrow. I’d forgotten that Christmas is not an empty promise of lights, laughter, and happiness, but rather a fulfilled promise of rescue, redemption, and hope.
Yes, this world hurts. Your loss, abandonment, rejection, failure, loneliness, and fears are all real. And honestly, no Zoom Christmas party or Hallmark binge-watching sessions or excessive amounts of gifts will change that.
Weary friend, if you find yourself staring at the empty promises of this world’s version of Christmas and feeling let down and alone, I invite you to turn your eyes toward a baby who was born in a dirty stable, grew up, lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and was resurrected—all to offer a better way.
A way that infuses every dark day with a thrill of hope and a deeper meaning.
Whatever you’re going through, know this: a Savior has come. He sees you. He’s with you in your suffering. He doesn’t mask your pain with fluorescent blinking lights and bell-ringing Santas. Instead, he can and will infuse your life with light that cannot be unplugged or packed away in storage with our tree and trimmings. He offers a purpose that isn’t seasonal, and a love that is never distanced. He offers true hope. A hope that thrills.
And that, weary friend, is a hope worth rejoicing over.