Christmas is a time when it seems as though a magic wand has sprinkled pixie dust on the world and painted it with shimmering stars and sparkling lights. The snow appears to glisten more brightly. The tree shines with hundreds of tiny lights. Its fragrant arms hold an assortment of glitter-covered ornaments collected over the years – many of which were crafted with love by little fingers that once wrapped around ours as we counted the beautifully wrapped packages sitting under the wide-spread boughs. Even little cheeks are all aglow with the spirit of the season. But, while I paint a smile on my face and try to make it through the once anticipated festivities of the Christmas, I sometimes wish I could wave another magic wand that makes it just go away. The magical blanket that wraps the world in enchanting splendor hangs heavy on my shoulders and threatens to smother the Christmas spirit within me because after the loss of a child, Christmas is forever changed.
Christmas arrives without regard to grieving families. Before you have recovered from the contradictory emotions of grief and gratitude at Thanksgiving, the rest of the world eagerly ushers in Christmas with a pageantry unequal to any other earthly celebration. But, the fanfare haunts the bereaved. It is a struggle to drag out the boxes of décor that wait to deck the halls of the home with a missing face, an empty chair and a silent voice. The same boxes hold beautiful, yet painful memories of Christmases gone, never to return. Irksome lights are waiting to be strung, but we would rather hide in the dark. Ornaments are waiting to be hung, but there are those you leave packed because the memories they trigger are just too tender to bear. Invitations to parties and events you don’t have the strength to attend flood the calendar. Our emotions dance and swirl like the snowflakes outside, beauty wrapped in bitter cold. The memories bring a dichotomy of sentiments which are becoming all too familiar in this process called a grief journey. That arduous trek of realizing your “new normal” – a term you are learning to hate!
What do we do with holiday that should be so special? How do we survive the fanfare? Once again we must be intentional in finding the hope. We must see Christmas through the eyes of a child, a baby king who was placed in a lowly manger – a humble cradle crafted from rough wood much like the wood that short years later would be crudely fashioned into a cross. At the foot of this cross sat a grieving mother not unlike myself. Mary had cradled her baby King in her arms. She had watched him grow and mature. She loved with an earthly love. She no doubt grieved as others mocked Him. And then, she wept as she watched her son, the innocent King of Kings, die that we might have hope.
During bedtime prayers many years ago when our son Taylor was about three, he prayed for healing for a family member who was quite ill. In the innocent faith that only a child possesses, He explained to me that God would take care of things because He was magic. As my skeptic mind began to spin with a way to explain to him that God wasn’t “magic,” Taylor added, “But it’s a special magic…a miracle magic.” I’ve come to love that description. It perfectly depicts our Lord. You see, Christmas isn’t about the fanfare or the decorations. It is, however, about a gift. Not one wrapped in fancy paper and tied with a matching bow, but a love gift from our Heavenly Father that was born to Earthly parents, swaddled in its own blanket of miracle magic and laid in a common manger. And the Christmas story is only the beginning. This miracle story leads on a journey to a cross and culminates with a risen Savior.
I think that Christmas in heaven probably looks much different than the spectacle we have made it on earth. The halls of Heaven do not need to be decked, for they are always arrayed in splendor. There is no seasonal fanfare, for there is perpetual pomp and pageantry at the foot of the King. There is no need for carols, because everyone will be joining in one voice to sing praises to the Author of a story of “miracle magic.” A story that gives me hope in this ugly chapter of my earthly story because I know that I will one day shed my grief blanket and instead be wrapped not only in the embrace of my son, but in the embrace of God’s Son, the perfect gift.