After the beginning credits have stopped the scene zooms in on a small, quaint town where everybody knows everybody. The streets are pristinely decorated with Christmas lights as people hustle and bustle, getting the last of their Christmas shopping done.
In a local coffee shop, we see a couple talking about their upcoming divorce, but they agree it’s best to wait and tell the kids after the New Year. A single mom mourns the loss of her husband just months before. A man gets dumped by his girlfriend on Christmas Eve and he swears he’ll never celebrate Christmas or love again. Finally, George Bailey realizes that wishing to never have been born proves to be the best life lesson he’ll ever need.
Ahhh. Hello Hallmark Channel.
Two things I know for sure about these movies; there is always a happy ending, and the women always have at least 4 or 5 stylish winter wool coats. Who has that many wool coats? I’m mean, come on!
Before the credits roll, we learn the couple discover renewed love after getting stranded together in a stranger’s house while driving home in a blizzard. A widowed woman from church befriends the single mom, and helps her find a new job with great pay and great benefits, while reigniting her faith once more. The man who got dumped meets someone else he can’t live without. (I got nothing else here. It just happens.) And good ole George Bailey realizes he’s tired of seeing life as it could have been had he not been born. He simply prays, “I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again!”
David died in June 2010. Christmas came six months later, which we spent in Wisconsin that year. I couldn’t contain my emotions because I couldn’t control my anguish. I had to push myself to engage in conversations. I hid in the bathroom periodically because when the tears came, the tears came. No one needed or wanted to see that. All I could think about was losing my son. I had very little leftover to think about God’s. I felt guilty about this, selfish even. Was I dishonoring God? It is His Son’s birthday after all! Sigh.
The following year was difficult too. Mike’s Mom had been in the hospital for several weeks, and we knew she wouldn’t be with us much longer. None of us could have imagined Grandma Nancy would die at 5:33 pm on Christmas Eve. This was also our second Christmas without David, and while I missed him terribly I felt that it would be inappropriate to deal with those emotions under the circumstances. I did my best to compartmentalize those feelings for another day down the road. I felt I had to be strong, especially for Mike’s Dad.
By the time December 2012 rolled around I had no idea what to expect. I was pretty numb, almost indifferent. I was determined to just go with whatever happened.
Until I had a conversation with one of my very best friends. (a friend I can be real with and she still likes me!) We were talking about everything, then De De told me her son KJ randomly asked her why she doesn’t decorate more for Christmas. I like the decorations. Hmmm. Okay. So, she grabbed a few boxes out of storage and went to town. She played loud Christmas music as she decorated the house and decided to claim the joy of the season of celebrating Jesus. She got some baking done too. This was so much fun Jan! It feels so good to slow down and reflect on the joy of Christmas.
Joy. There’s that word again. Ya know, I’d spent the past two years balancing my grief, but experiencing joy weaved in with Christmas traditions of the season hadn’t even entered my mind. Just like when De De had to spoon feed me crackers to get me to eat after David died, she may not have realized it, but she was doing the same with this notion of joy.
De De sent me pictures of what she had done and that’s all it took for me. A spark ignited, and suddenly I became excited to re-claim the joy of Jesus and the joy of Christmas traditions that used to drive me this time of year. I put lights on the Christmas tree and lit garland on the fireplace mantle, along with the snowman stocking holders which showcased David and Daniel’s stockings I’ve had since they were little. I also set out the nativity set that Grandma Rozga gave me a month before she died. I’m giving this to you early so you can enjoy it this Christmas. It was the last gift she gave to me and I will treasure it forever.
I also decided I would do something I hadn’t done in years; I turned on Christmas music and baked away. I actually had fun doing it, anticipating the moment when I would hand deliver the Christmas treats to our friends in the neighborhood. I hadn’t felt this joy for years, and I’m talking about a “Merry Christmas Mr. Potter!” type of joy. I couldnt wipe the smile off my face. It was wonderful.
I called De De later that day and sent her a picture of my finished work and the treats cooling on my kitchen countertop. I thanked her for helping me to jumpstart my Christmas spirit. More specifically my soul. I had been missing out on a lot of things in my life, a lot of joy that had been buried within me. I needed to open my heart up… “I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again.”
It was time. It was way past time. Maybe it’s time for you too.
Each Christmas brings its own challenges. This year we will spend it without Mike’s Dad. He passed away last month. But I know what I know; God is still good, and searching for joy is a choice. I choose joy.
It is possible to mourn your loss AND celebrate Jesus’ birth at the same time. I pray that you will rediscover Jesus, the reason for the season and that you will find joy in the traditions of the past that you once loved and looked forward to. You may even start new traditions. What joy it will bring to your heart as you prepare for Christmas next week. Grab the decorations out of storage and set the butter out to soften. You have work to do.
God Bless you and Merry Christmas.
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Jesus=joy, and joy=Jesus.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Our hope is found in Jesus, and joy always follows this hope. And not just at Christmas time.