Willow Tree figures stand sentinel over the Christmas tree like they know she’s missing. My mama, represented by the soft-edged wooden figure of a woman holding a rose, beauty who embodied everything Christmas, has been gone eight Christmases now. It doesn’t get easier to fill the empty she left here.
It’s a beautiful season, Christmas. Not easy, but immensely beautiful. It holds all the heartache and remembering and promise and hope of God as a baby come to earth to save us all. And we know what a gift that was, know how none of these temporal things matter in the big picture, but we still hurt because this frail human flesh hasn’t fallen off yet and we can’t see as He sees.
One day we will.
I think of my friend spending her first holiday season with her beloved husband behind tall prison bars for maybe the next ten Christmases, marvel at how she sets her jaw strong against the tears that threaten and watch her eyes twinkle with hope that can only come to one through a cradle and a cross and a promise of life and freedom that nothing can take away.
Because the Enemy, he would steal all this if he could. He would thieve it all, this joy in the middle of pain and hope in deep sadness and peace in unwordable loss. But he can’t, because it comes from the Father of Lights and darkness can’t open its squinty eyes against such brilliance. Despair has no place here.
We long for loved ones lost or away, and we wish they could all come home for Christmas. We grieve lost relationship and long for days gone by and we fight those momentary battles with regret. None of it goes away while we celebrate the Christ Child. But just like we don’t mourn like those who have no hope, we also don’t celebrate like those with only shallow understanding of what this is all about. We hold a hope no thief can steal.
No decoration can outshine it, no ribbons can tie it in, and no song can set it quite to music. But we try, feeble as we are, to swipe at salty tears and swallow these sorrows we know won’t last forever, and we whisper thank you to Heaven because we know this isn’t all there is.
We are pensive but for a short season, and then comes the morning where His mercies are new and everything is made right and the figure of the Creator stands sentinel over all He has made and reaches out with a warm smile and a welcoming hand to all who come home for Christmas.