You know how you always see memes floating around Facebook all summer that are exclaiming “only 6 more months until Christmas!!”? People usually send me those because they know my love for the Christmas season. I listen to Christmas music year round and watch Elf no less than 20 times. Every year my husband reins me in and we compromise on not getting a tree until Thanksgiving is over. I can’t help it. I’ve always loved the Christmas magic. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, little feet running to the Christmas tree in excited curiosity, the reflection of the lights off of their little faces, leaving cookies out for Santa, and so many more little Christmas moments that make it so special. It overflows my heart.
Last year in early December I remember sitting in church listening to our preacher talk about how for so many people, the Christmas season isn’t very jolly. And in my heart I knew that. I really did. And I would pray for those people and ask God to be with them through their hurting, but I don’t think the depths of his words truly sunk in.
Then a few months ago our two-year old started not feeling well. Symptoms started piling up and a visit to the pediatrician turned into multiple lab draws, hospital stays, specialist visits hours away from home, bone marrow biopsies, and waiting for answers. Doctors started using words like Leukemia and Lymphoma and being stumped,not able to find a diagnosis. I started to wonder if we would be home for Christmas, or if we would spend it in a hospital somewhere. Thanksgiving came and went and there was no talk of a tree, making cookies, or Christmas party plans. There was no magic. There was no time to focus on the things that now seemed so trivial. There was only focus on getting Porter better, and praying for answers.
Our problems are so small compared to what some of our friends and family are going through, and thinking about them trying to get through this Christmas tears my heart apart when I know how what we are dealing with is affecting this season.
I finally forced myself to get a tree, and we’ve since made cookies and done some of our family traditions. I’ve realized in these forced actions that I was focusing on the wrong magic of Christmas. Christmas has always been about Jesus in our house, but I’ve put the other traditions on way too high of pedestals. This year though we have done the same traditions, there is a different magic. There is a magic of being thankful that while we wait on test results, it means we spend Christmas at home. There is a magic that Porter feels good enough to help decorate the tree and make cookies and just maybe it isn’t that important that the ornaments are perfectly spaced on the tree. That there is hope that maybe he just has some weird virus and soon this will be behind us. There is a deeper thankfulness.
Sunday in church I listened to the sermon about joy and I thought back to those words I listened to a year ago. And then it clicked. Past Christmas’s have been more about happiness than joy. About the selfish happiness of how all of those things make ME feel. Happiness isn’t bad, but it doesn’t last though. The cookies turn stale, and the new quickly wears off from the presents we just thought we had to have. The day after Christmas we come down from that high, wondering what to do with ourselves now. Happiness is fleeting. But Joy. Joy goes deeper than happiness could ever dream of. It’s the joy we have, even in scary and trying circumstances. Joy that no matter how big or small our problems are, we have a savior that came to earth and didn’t stay a baby, but grew up and died on the cross for us. Joy in knowing that while the family traditions are great, Jesus is even greater. Joy is something that can’t be taken from us when we are one of God’s children. Joy doesn’t grow old or spoil or go out of style. It is tucked deep down in our soul even in our darkest moments, reminding us of the greatest truth we could ever know.
While of course I would change our circumstances this Christmas if I could, I’m so thankful for the joy I have that can’t be taken from me. Because this Christmas is different, but it’s nice to be able to focus on the stuff that matters.