The shelves which once held festive and shiny Christmas merchandise at my local supermarket have been cleared to make way for weight loss products and diet supplements. Leftover stores of candy canes, in unfortunate flavors which no one dared to try, wear bright orange discount stickers and sit together in a sad, bedraggled heap. No one rings a bell and greets me as I drop a handful of change into a red kettle on my way out the door.
Friends tell me they’ve taken down their lights and packed away Christmas. They are ready to get back to normal, they say. And outside, it is just so very cold.
The store displays and lack of decoration seem to be telling me, “The party is over. It’s time to atone for your overindulgence in fun, festivity, and food. It’s time to stop acting like a kid and get back to the serious grown-up business of life on a cold January day.
And I want no part of it.
I took an unplanned blogging break during the last couple of weeks of December. It began about the same time news broke about the shootings in a small town in my state. I have no personal connection to any of the families who lost loved ones that day. Before shots rang out and the whole world learned their names, Newtown and Sandy Hook were just words on exit signs I passed on my way out of the state.
What I do have in common with the residents of that community is a recent glimpse of a child-sized casket. I don’t know how anyone ever looks at such a thing without forever being changed by it. A casket that size just seems to scream, “This is not right. This is not normal. This is not the way life is supposed to be.”
And the residents of Newtown saw twenty of them. Twenty mamas buried their babies. And this mama felt the breath sucked right out of her lungs and words stripped from her heart. I didn’t dare write for fear of saying either too much or too little about guns or grief or the incomprehensible ways of God. So I just sat in silence.
And dwelt in the consolation of Christmas.
Because Christmas is either an elaborate fairy tale complete with jingle bells and glitter, pageantry and props, which we tell ourselves as a diversion from the cruel realities of this life; or it’s true. And I don’t believe a fairy tale has anything to offer the grieving mothers in Newtown. Or to anyone else whose heart aches with the miseries of this world.
Either there really were shepherds and angels, a light shined in the darkness, and God drew near or, we are all on our own in this life. And the best we can wish for is to muddle through it hoping to escape major heartache and grief.
I can’t abide in that kind of reality. I have no desire to return to that kind of normal. I need to dwell in the reality which says this old world is passing away and all things are being made new. And the celebration of God drawing near, and dwelling with his people, makes the world my soul longs for seem so close I can almost touch it.
My son recently told a friend of mine, “Christmas is mom’s season,” and he’s right. I don’t just love Christmas; I need Christmas. Christmas seems more normal to me than anything else this world has to offer on any other day of the year.
So pardon me if I don’t want to atone for overindulging in celebration. I need the lights shining in the darkness a little longer this year. I need to hear songs of joy. I refuse to believe the party is over. The coming of Emmanuel assures me it’s just getting started. And this is the only normal I want to get back to:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3,4 ESV
Joining Cheryl @ Oikos Living, and with Jen and the sisterhood: