“It’s going to be a different kind of Christmas this year,” she said, smoothing the covers of her twin bed. As we visited, I wondered how it felt to go back to a twin, now, in her old age. Now, with no one else’s legs to bump against at night. Now, with plenty of people on her hall to talk to, but no one who knew the secret things about her, like how she liked to bob a sugar cube in her coffee, fish it out with a spoon right before it fell apart and slurp it down like candy. Or how she slept in socks rolled down just so that the ends of her feet were covered. Toe caps he used to call them, chuckling to himself. She’d remember his laugh as she got into bed. She’d wiggle her toes inside her socks. “Toe caps,” she’d whisper to herself.
Christmas will be different for her this year.
Will it be different for you, too?
Life changes through the years, so it makes sense that Christmas does too. People come into our lives or they go, hopes and dreams are fulfilled or they’re not, things work out or they don’t. But Christmas, being CHRISTMAS, circles all the changes in red and MAGNIFIES them.
But we always do it this way! our inner child shouts.
Tradition is part of what makes Christmas special. We get excited to go through the merry motion of those Christmas things we do every year- the trips to see the lights or get the tree, the baking to do, (or the bakeries to visit!) the carols to sing or the albums to play– and we get excited about reliving the memories all those sights and sounds and smells pull from the cobwebs of our brains. But when people and circumstances change, tradition can be part of what makes Christmas hard.
May I tell you a little story?
Last Sunday, we took the kids caroling to a retirement center. The bus was full of chatter as we loaded up and headed out to deliver Christmas cheer and candy canes. I sat with a stack of song sheets on my lap, since elementary school aged kids often LOVE to sing carols and can provide plenty of Christmas enthusiasm, but can’t always provide the right words. About half way there I started to worry about our time crunch, so I got out of my seat and walked the aisle, handing the papers out.
Immediately something weird happened.
First SILENCE. (Have you ever been on a bus full of children? This NEVER happens- unless you’re coming home after a week of camp and everyone has fallen asleep.)
Next, as if an invisible conductor waved his wand, EVERYONE BEGAN SINGING AT ONCE. ALL DIFFERENT SONGS!
I took the photo as the music swelled to an incredible volume- and the amazing thing was that no one was noticing because everyone was singing her/his own song. Imagine Away In A Manger meets Jingle Bells meets Go Tell It On the Mountain meets Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer meets We Wish You a Merry Christmas, meets ten other carols, all at one time!
The cacophony sounded like traffic, only Christmas-y. I listened and laughed, and then it spoke to me. Know what it said?
It said that Christmas can come to each of us in a different way this year. It can come to us as we need it to. It can!
Who better than God can look at each of us and know what we need? (The answer is NO ONE!)
This is going to sound weird, but do you know what I like to think about? I like to think about people throughout the last two thousand years who called on God for help, who imagined Jesus and listened to his words … from people whose parents had actually met him to people through every decade in history, women and men, no matter how much or little they had, no matter how much or little they knew, who called on God to come anew to them…and Jesus did.
Jesus knows how to enter my world and your world, no matter the changes we’re facing.
As we eat our candy canes and drink our cocoa, we can sing our own songs, with words that come to us at the time. Jesus will come near, huddling close by our cradles. We don’t have to be alone in our discombobulation.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Wishing you God’s comfort in any changes you are navigating!