The tears flow freely.
The Christmas cards hanging in the frame on my wall — proclaiming the usual Peace on Earth and Good Cheer — are having the opposite effect on me in this moment.
My eyes stop for a moment on each image that represents a relationship we value — family and friends from near and far, old and new.
I consider the stories that are hidden behind those happy pictures.
This is the family who lost their father suddenly this year. Here is the friend who is battling brain cancer. There is the family who has been struggling through infertility and miscarriage. This family suffered deep personal loss this year in quiet, behind the scenes.
Then I consider the previous week when I held onto a friend as she wept over the sudden loss of her mom. I remember the sweet girl at church whose neck I hugged last Sunday — the one who is only 18 and experienced the same tragic loss last year.
Truth be told, some of these tears are spilled for myself. I have felt loss this year too.
I have been reminded of my brokenness as a mom, wife, woman more times than I care to admit. I have wrestled with fear and pain and sadness.
As the tears drip down my face, I am suddenly and painfully aware of the truth behind those cards declaring how Happy these Holidays should be.
In this broken world in which we live, the promises of happiness and joy that the holidays claim to offer can feel as hollow as false advertising. Tokens of good cheer in the form of traditions and shiny gifts instead serve as painful reminders that things are not as they should be; that there is a gaping hole felt that a person or health or peace of mind once filled.
Amidst my tears, I am reminded of a gathering in our home earlier in the week. Dear friends who pour out their lives with us in ministry gathered around our piano and poured out their hearts in song. An unspoken reminder of battles fought this year in the forms of cancer, family illness, and heartache filled the room as we lifted our voices honoring this Baby King who entered into our brokenness to become Emmanuel — God with us, revealed in us.
Together, we rejoiced in this thrill of hope offered to our weary hearts.
Our voices joined in harmony, wrapping our wounded humanity like a soft knit blanket — the unspoken pain enveloped in a Savior’s love.
I glance back up at the cards and the smiling faces, and I wonder:
What if we are missing the whole point? There is no promise of health or good will or happiness that will not someday seep through those broken gaping holes, leaving a void not filled by any vestige of good cheer.
But perhaps it is those empty spaces that make room for Emmanuel to dwell?
Perhaps the One who stepped out of eternity to be birthed into a dirty, hidden manger is the God who is still filling our hidden, empty, rugged places today?
Perhaps the promise of Christmas joy is not found in the shiny, pretty, happy things but in the feeding troughs and the broken hearts that prepare Him room.
Suddenly, these tears don’t seem so out of place at Christmas. Welcome, Emmanuel. Make your home with us.