Brokenness sometimes overwhelms me at Christmas, the fog rolling in tonight a stealthy reminder despite its soft beauty. When I was a freshman in college, we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve to accommodate my brother’s stepson and his other grandparents. On Christmas morning, my mother’s birthday, her father died at 3:00 a.m. We’ve opened gifts on Christmas Eve ever since.
Two years ago was the first Christmas without my daddy. One year ago was the first Christmas without his sister. This is the first Christmas without my brother, the last of the immediate family. And here I am in Tennessee, while my mother celebrates Christmas without family.
Yet we celebrate, because the Babe came to bring hope, to bring light, to offer the star that ever shines above our Mordor, no matter how impenetrable the clouds of sin and sorrow may seem. On this foggy Christmas Eve, I have our own unique Christmas tree to remind me.
The jade is an offshoot of the one my daddy grew at the University of Kansas; his was quite a large tree when it finally died long after his retirement. But he had given me a shoot from it when I got married – “it’s the only thing I know you won’t kill,” he teased me, knowing I never remember to water plants. We lost the original, I fear, to the abuse of some move or other, but this is its descendent. We never got a “real” Christmas tree, because we always traveled to my parents’ home, where a tree and wreaths and lights and cookies waited, when the kids were growing up – but I love the little blue lights in the glossy green of the jade leaves, and the simple crèche at its foot.
As this jade with its tiny lights comes from my father’s better-cared-for and massive plant, I am reminded that hope comes from my heavenly Father’s gift – and however much I and the rest of the world may try to darken and twist and destroy that gift, we cannot. His light will always be shining, always be waiting, anticipating our upturned eyes to see. And even the tiniest light will penetrate the darkness if we only look.
A blessed Christmas to all, especially to those who suffer loneliness, loss, sorrow this season. May His light brighten even the darkest moments with His hope.