how to have a (brave) merry Christmas

"I'm just not looking forward to the holidays this year. I feel jaded by the whole thing."

When the holiday season kicks off with this type of conversation between you and your sister. 

How does one celebrate the joy of Christmas on days when your heart is too heavy? As if it's sitting stone-like in your chest, dark and cold. Afraid to beat again. Afraid of getting hurt.

Just afraid. 

This year, the search for our Christmas tree led us to a beautiful farm ten minutes from our home. It was oddly warm for this time of year. The sun draped on the shoulders of watchful hills as we sized up potential trees. 

Sometimes it feels like nothing will ever size up around here. 

How do you wrestle with the truth that the Christ-babe came to heal when  people you love are still laying busted and bleeding from living  life in a broken world? This weight in my chest aches. I've been wide awake at night lately crying out to Jesus for this one to find freedom, for that one to be healed, for this beloved one to rise from the ashes. 

Everywhere I look, we're cutting down trees to string up at home. All the while, lives I know are being sliced down and strung out too.

It seems folly doesn't it? To march outside during the onset of Winter; to celebrate anything when the whole of nature is quite literally dying around us. But maybe that's just exactly when we need to celebrate the most. Maybe it's less about waiting for the " happy feelings" to show up, and more about preparing for Christ to arrive. 

Perhaps preparing--in hopeful, stubborn faith--for the miracle to come, becomes part of the miracle itself. 

The grass is cold under our feet. I watch as a woodpecker lands in a walnut tree to my right. He flies off, bobbing in the wind like a cork in water.  I think maybe a lot of us are just trying to stay afloat too.

Behr looks at tree after tree and does that crinkle-face he makes when he's amused. For some reason, a forest of fir trees was something completely hilarious to our boy.  Watching him sparks a bit of light into the shade cast over my spirit. "A joyful heart is good medicine..." -Proverbs 17:22

Scout rides in the hollow on my chest, the same place Behr used to.  Enjoying her cosmic eyes and deliciously round cheeks remind me of how much I longed for days like just like this last year. 

We decided on our tree just as the day's last light was winking into the West hollows surrounding the farm. I stopped myself for a minute. Breathe this in. I thought.

"I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them." Psalm 34:4-7

I have to pocket light and truth when they're unavoidably evident. That way, on the days when darkness paces thick on the edges, I can have a match to strike for the torch I need to wield it off. 

As I'm writing this, our tree is sitting just there over my left shoulder. Once we stood it up in the living room, we laughed. Out on the farm, we didn't realize how big it was. 

Isn't the hope Jesus offers like that? It's more vast than we realize and kind of ridiculous in how it keeps showing up no matter how bleak things feel. 

So here I am, heart a bit heavy, spirit a bit wearied, but hopeful. People I know may be hurting, my anxiety might still be robbing me of confidence and rest, but the brave cheer of Christmas (of Christ coming, hallelujah!) is just what I need. And maybe you do too. 

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined." Isaiah 9:2