I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s Advent devotional and the reading from a few days ago has stuck with me:
“Joy…the gigantic secret gift that He gives and we unwrap, that we never stop unwrapping– we who were barren now graced with the Child who lets us laugh with relief for all eternity. There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear: ‘All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.’ And His love for you never will. So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed.”
I’ve been filling up these December days with my children and husband with activities and treats, in an attempt to create long-lasting, warm and fuzzy memories. This past weekend, we enjoyed snow tubing at The Brick, with an organization that is near and dear to our family. The picture shows all 5 of us goofballs enjoying ourselves, but the truth is, I was in a really bad mood. The kids started complaining about car-sickness the moment we got in the van, the traffic was inexplicably bad, our dinner choice was too crowded to wait, and our second choice wasn’t good. When it came time to snow tube, my daughter decided she was too scared to try it, so my husband and I had to take turns sitting in the bleachers with her while our boys enjoyed themselves. On my last turn, I got splashed in the face with muddy water. I was done.
While we watched our kids enjoying a train ride, I apologized to my husband for my awful attitude. What was supposed to be an enjoyable time as a family was tainted by my unmet expectations and sour demeanor. I reflected on it overnight and the next day I explained to him that I’m trying too hard to redeem this season for myself. Christmas changed for me in 2010. My mom, who loved Christmas more than any other time of year (except maybe summer…and OU football season), was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent two brain surgeries that year. She made it home for Christmas Eve only to suffer a stroke and head back to the ICU on Christmas Day.
She made Christmas huge and special. She was generous to a fault. Her love language was gift-giving and she was great at it. She loved Black Friday and getting everyone exactly what they wanted. She exuded JOY at Christmas.
That’s a big void left behind, and I’ve been trying so hard this year to fill it. It took my awful Friday night to help me see that. Christmas looks different since Mom died. There’s no denying or changing that, and I don’t have to. I don’t have to plaster on a fake smile and endure. I can enter into the sadness and the darkness. I can cry big tears and pray for peace. I can also laugh and rejoice and enjoy extra time with the people I love. Christmas is about so much more than Mom’s lavish gifts or homemade hot chocolate or picture perfect, Instagram-worthy moments.
It’s about Emmanuel- God with us. The God who came so unexpectedly still does. He shows up quietly, without fanfare. He comes lowly and humble when He could come in majesty and power. If we’re honest, we might admit we’re a bit disappointed in his ways. I’ll admit I could use a few more miracles and a bit less waiting these days. That’s my impatience, my sinfulness, and my desire to redeem things myself. Advent is all about waiting. Waiting for the coming Messiah, who makes all things new. He has redeemed, he will redeem. He has come, he will come again. He is true JOY.
“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.