The two girls twirled around in their new “angel” nightgowns as Christmas music was playing in the background. The white twinkling lights on the fancy Christmas tree seemed to be dancing along with them. The Christmas tree was beautifully elegant – it looked like it was out of a designer holiday magazine. The two dancing girls were innocent and naïve – too young to know of anything else but the light heartedness that always accompanied the Christmas season.
My sister and I grabbed hands and spun around in circles until we fell over. I remember lying on the floor, breathing hard, just taking the whole scene in. The whole moment seemed magically perfect.
But now I’m 21 and my sister is 18. We both came home from college and are practically living out of our suitcases for the next few weeks. We don’t get new nightgowns every Christmas Eve, nor do we dance to Christmas music when the Christmas tree lights are on. We no longer pretend that we’re in the angel choir announcing the Savior’s birth. And, we definitely don’t wake up early on Christmas morning to open presents anymore.
The wonder and awe of Christmas is still more or less the same though. The excitement of seeing lights, singing Christmas carols, reading the Christmas story, decorating the tree, building gingerbread houses…yeah, it’s still there, just expressed differently. The reality of it all has changed.
The Christmas Eve service at Cedar Grove was as wonderful as always. I played guitar and from my corner of the stage I could see the whole sanctuary. The decorations, the candles on the walls, the families, all the emotions… When I’m on stage, I usually try to make eye contact with a few people. It’s the same few people I always try to find…but they weren’t there tonight. Neither was my family. Everything is just a little different this year…
The house is quiet and I’m sitting alone on the floor wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace gazing at the tree. And I’m still wearing my outfit from the church service. Something in me wants to wake up my sister and twirl around to Christmas music in the living room by the tree. I miss those moments…
I’m feeling joyful, but there’s a hint of sorrow that goes with it. I’m older now. I’ve traveled around the world and have seen people in desperate situations and living in poverty. I’ve held children in a third world country who are no longer living because they did not get the simple medical care they needed. How about the oppressed and marginalized people in America? The kids and broken families in Cabrini Green and other Housing Projects…what about them? My view of “it’s all good” has been tainted. My heart is heavy and light.
There’s a strong desire to go back in time and experience life and Christmas like a child…but we can’t go back. We’ll never be children again.
My “cheerful Christmas blog” turned a little depressing…so I’ll end it on a good note.
Hope. That’s what Christmas is. We may live in a filthy and dying world, but that’s why Jesus came – to save us – to bring us the gift of hope.
“And I, I celebrate the day that You were born to die so I could one day pray for You to save my life.” – I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
Written with Love,
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It was a cooler evening than usual for a summer night in California, but nothing compared to the bitter chill of Chicago. I had a big sweatshirt on and had the ends of the sleeves tucked inside, tightly gripped in my hands. I sat on the swing on the front porch with a friend and we talked and laughed about the adventures of being away at school and of the fun memories we’d had together. The whole situation was so…normal. Wonderfully normal.
During a pause in the conversation, I remember looking up at the stars, wishing I could reach out and touch one. The dark night sky was so vast and overwhelming and I felt so small and insignificant sitting on the bench of the swing. Trying to take it all in was impossible; my mind couldn’t fathom the endlessness of it all. Especially the realization that I was only able to see a small piece of the sky. The challenges that arise, the fear that overtakes, the pain that isn’t quickly healed, it’s all so devastating but at the same time, so temporary. The view of our lives is just like the view we have of the sky – incomplete. Unanswered questions about the challenges we go through will always be around. We can make guesses about our questions, educated ones at that, but we don’t know for sure how the outcome will be until it’s happened.
On the other side of challenges and struggles, when I've conquered the battle, I feel like I get to see a little bit of a bigger glimpse of the larger picture. I feel so trivial when I’m trudging through something difficult, but I also feel loved and cared for. I know I’ll be okay even if I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve learned that God doesn’t waste our experiences; they eventually come full circle. And some day, I’ll get to see that.
Back to stargazing…a more serious conversation ended the evening and, as expected, left a few more unanswered questions and things to wonder and dream about. And maybe a few things to hope for : )
Now I’m in Chicago, struggling to see the stars through all the skyscrapers, lights, and clouds. But I know in full confidence that they’re still up in the sky somewhere. Holding on to the memories of summer, I close my eyes and can see the stars shining and twinkling through the trellis top of the swing…
“When I look at the stars, the stars, I feel like myself.” ~Switchfoot