When it doesn't feel like Christmas

photo-68This is a very strange year for us, and for the first time in my life, Christmas just doesn't seem...well...like Christmas. This feeling is not for lack of Christmas traditions or involvement in decorating, cookie baking, present shopping, wrapping, gifting. It comes from a season of change in our lives. None of our children are home, though we will see them all tomorrow, just not all in person, for an "I love you" hug. (You can't hug a person over webcam.) I didn't struggle with this feeling the year my dad died. Perhaps that was because I spent the whole month reading Two From Galilee for the zillionth time. I was focused on Jesus, His birth, and experienced again what "might have been" for Mary and Joseph. Christmas still had its expectations in my heart - some of which are usually broken because I set them too high. But my joy in the reason for our celebration remained the same.

But this year's change was different. Empty nest is a different kind of loss, but nonetheless a permanent one. Children don't go back to being children. They grow up and move on and though we remain close in heart, our need for each other's presence changes. That's not a bad thing. It's just a different thing.

And we lost our Shadow this year, which is also not a bad thing (for Shadow's sake) just different for us, for Tiger. We discovered today that Shadow was older than we realized. (Somehow we lost track of his age.) Randy found a receipt for vaccinations for Shadow. Turns out he was more like 17 than 14 or 15.  He lived a long full life for a kitty. Still, losing him reminded me how quickly life changes.

We never know what a day may bring, and change is inevitable. For those who have suffered pain or heartache or loss, the holidays are hard. (And my prayers are with all of you in this place in life.) Even when it doesn't feel like Christmas, we still might go through the motions and do the things required or expected of us. But the emotions aren't the same.

Last year was probably my favorite Christmas in recent memory, not only because I had my family near but because my focus was not only on them but the Lord. We had dinner at a great restaurant Christmas week and I will never forget the laughter and the joy. But I also will never forget the sense that Jesus was with us in that room. I could easily imagine the joy we will have in His presence one day.

Perhaps that is the best way to handle our emotions here and now - when Christmas just doesn't feel like it should. Or like it used to in years gone by. Or like we envision or expect it to be. In times like these Luke 2 is a good reminder of why we celebrate. (For those who want to read it, I've posted it below.)

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.