Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel--which, when translated, means, God with us.
I'm going to admit something horrible. Here we are, three days before Christmas and I am not in the Christmas spirit. No matter what I do, I can't catch that feeling. I grew up in New York City and, for all the bad things NYC offers, it is the best place in the world to be at Christmastime. Lights are everywhere. People are kind of cheery (kind of cheery is saying a lot for NYers). It's just the most magical place to be at this time of year. Growing up, all of my family was there. Christmas was always loud, with firecode breaking amounts of people stuffed into my grandmother's tiny railroad apartment in Queens. We had lots of laughter, yelling over eachother and kids running wild. That's the feeling I'm chasing.
I've tried to catch the feeling. My Pandora has had a Christmas station on all month. I put up our tree. I decorated our house. I went Christmas shopping. I attended two kiddie Christmas parties. I went to see lights at the local speedway (yes, I'm offically a southerner...and they were lame). My church has been playing Christmas carols all month. I watched my kids perform "Away in a manger". I even watched It's a Wonderful Life. Nada.
Just this morning I was talking to my cousin about my Scrooge-ish feelings. I just want Christmas and New Years to be over. As excited as I am to see my kids open their gifts on Christmas morning, I'm dreading that lonely feeling because (you guessed it) this is not the way I planned it. I always dreamed of having a "normal" family. I dreamed of plotting and planning and hiding Christmas gifts with a husband. I dreamed of watching pajama-clad cuties opening their gifts, with both of their parents watching in enjoyment. That's just not the way it turned out. In fact, as a parent, I've had more Christmases as a single parent than as a married one.
As I was reflecting on my inability to "feel" Christmasy (is that a word?), I started to think about the real reason for Christmas. I know it sounds cliché, but when you really think about it, I'm sure Mary was feeling anything but Christmasy on the night she gave birth to the King of kings. I've given birth and my first child came four days before Christmas. While each contraction seemingly ripped a hole through my abdomen, I guarantee you I had no Christmas cheer. Receiving my epidural was about the closest I came to merry that night. We all know Mary had no pain medications. She had no bed in which to lay. She had no fancy equipment to monitor the baby's heartbeat, no one to tell her it wouldn't be much longer. She lay in a odorific stable surrounded by farm animals. She was giving birth to the Savior. It sounds glorious, until you remember he was going to be the ultimate sacrifice just a short time from then.
I looked up a couple of verses relating to Christmas (God bless those YouVersion folks...download the app if you don't have it!) and came upon the one up top. This line is the one that got me: "...and they shall call His name Emmanuel--which, when translated, means, God withus". Do you think that's a coincidence? Surely God could've chosen a name that meant "Savior", "blameless", "sacrificial lamb" or a thousand other things He was and is. I don't believe there are coincidences with God though. That name reminds us, thousands of years later, He is with us. Always. In the good times and the bad. When life has somehow become exactly what we wanted or when it falls into crumbles around us while we watch helplessly. His presence is the one thing we can rely on. That alone should bring us comfort and joy.
I'm still not really "feeling" that feeling. Yet, like Mary, I want to give birth to hope. Obviously, bearing the son of God can't be matched but you and I can birth the things which the Christ child offered: joy, peace, hope, love. Even if it's painful. If you are a single mom/divorcee, or walking through any other kind of difficulties in life, Christmas can be painful. Be that as it may, my kids are not going to miss out on memories and traditions because life is a little non-traditional right now. They are not going to see me sulking the day away, dismissing everything that the birth of Jesus offers. It still may hurt, but I know I am birthing those things into my life and the lives of my children, and that's a better gift than I could every buy them. There's a Christmas song we sang at church and one line says, "Joy, unspeakable joy...overflowing well, no tongue can tell. Joy, unspeakable joy, rises in my soul, never lets me go." He truly is joy and when something overwhelms your soul, you can't help but experience it on the outside. This season, I celebrate the unspeakable joy he offers, in good times and bad.
Okay, I'm actually feeling a little more Christmasy now! Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and hopeful new year to you!