Somewhere around the middle of November I start to brace myself. I love the holidays but they aren’t always kind to my family.
When I send our oldest son off to school, he offers a weary smile – a sure sign of another sleepless night spent with memories of birthdays and Christmases before his adoption.
Then, there’s the man I married who hasn’t heard from his biological father in more than 30 years. While perfect families flash smiles across the screens, he fights off the questioning and the wondering that’s always chasing him this time of year.
My job is usually to comfort them, to reassure them that they are loved and valued, and to keep the holidays normal for the two younger boys. I wrap presents and drape strings of pearls on the tree. I make hot chocolate and search for the best neighborhood light displays. I stay home and feather the nest.
I’ve gotten pretty good at it, so we look OK from the outside. But I’ve been angry inside. Troubled that the people I love have been hurt. Upset that some of their joy has been stolen. Burdened by the thought that Christmas doesn’t feel very welcoming to them.
So this year I’m reading the Christmas story differently. And in the process, we’re rewriting our own.
I’m elbowing in at the manger, knowing that Jesus welcomes everyone. The grieving. The sick. The financially strapped. The less-than-perfect and the far-from-perfect.
I’m sidling up beside Mary and Joseph who know what it’s like to have a family that’s different from everyone else’s and what it’s like to have your own plans changed.
I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with the shepherds who are desperately seeking light in the darkness, who have come in their dusty shoes for the promise of peace.
Oh, how I’d like to get that angel’s attention. I desperately want to be close enough to whisper: Please, continue to tell the good news. Light up the sky and invite people to come as they are to Christmas. Remind them that they aren’t alone in this crazy life and that there’s plenty of room – and love – here at the manger.
And I pray that the sacred, almost indescribable joy of Christmas comes to hearts both whole and broken this season. It’s meant as a gift for all.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”