In church yesterday, a young man shared that his uncle had murdered his beloved grandparents on Christmas day a few years ago. Many have lost friends and loved ones to suicide at Christmas. Our pastor shared that one of his classmates had taken his own life this Christmas. Too many parents just faced their first Christmas without a child who passed from accident or disease or violence.
At my age, my friends are beginning to lose parents with whom they have shared a lifetime of Christmas magic. I lost my Dad in December a couple of years ago. I lost my Grandmother many years before that. But every Christmas has a bittersweet element to it because of the great memories they, and others who are now gone, provided and I miss them so much. Some have no one with whom to share the season. Many have family members who are estranged, angry, or indifferent.
This Christmas was not what I would call a merry one. It actually started before Thanksgiving when my step-daughter had an aortic dissection. The mortality rate is shockingly high for this and we are blessed that she survived and is recovering well. Then, before Christmas, another family member went into atrial fibrillation and had a stroke. We live far from everyone and there has been a lot of traveling on top of time in the hospital. Christmas night I lay awake very exhausted but unable to sleep. God, how am I supposed to deal with a Christmas like this?
Believe it or not, He brought to my mind a quote about Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” (See more at: http://www.fredrogers.org/parents/special-challenges/tragic-events.php#sthash.J19UTwA6.dpuf )
That made me think of how my brother and sisters had been rotating through shifts at the hospital. I thought of how my wife spent her Christmas vacation sleeping beside the patient to help with any needs in the night – which occurred quite frequently depriving her of uninterrupted sleep. I witnessed the hearts, hands, and feet of real love hour after hour and day upon day. Literally serving and loving joyfully.
Our family isn’t perfect. Probably like your family members, we are each flawed and broken. But in our brokenness we also have places where light shines through. I like that God reveals Himself in unexpected, broken places.
There He was. Just as the heavenly King had come to us as a baby in the manger behind the inn, He had come to my family in and through our brokenness and need. As much as I love Hallmark’s Christmas movies, when Santa appears at the end of the Christmas parade, Christmas trees, food, family and friends, Christmas is bigger than that. Christmas is a season to remember Messiah. God came in His love to us in our brokenness because we are broken but have such potential for brilliance.
I saw that grace and love in His image bearers as they provided care. I did not witness The Incarnation of the first Christmas, but I did see, not just Immanuel (God with us), but God in us. No, it wasn’t a very merry Christmas. But it was a very authentic Christmas. I just needed a reminder. “Look for the helpers.”