It’s January. We’re getting back into our routine of work and school, seeing people we haven’t seen for weeks. And here comes the classic, unavoidable question:
“How was your Christmas?”
In past years I might’ve said “Nice, thanks, it was great to see family.” Before kids came along: “Really relaxing.” But this year, there’s simply no way to sugar-coat my answer.
Honestly, it was pretty awful.
On Christmas Eve, right before we left for our church’s Christmas Eve service, my two-year-old came down with a stomach bug. He was sick through Christmas, until the evening of the 26th. Except for a few hours when I took my older son to my parents’ house on Christmas morning, we had to cancel everything. Instead of carols and candles on Christmas Eve, we were doing laundry. Instead of opening presents together and eating Christmas brunch, we were trying to teach a young child to run to the toilet or aim for the bucket. (He was 75% accurate.)
Awful is relative, I know. Maybe some of you endured the holiday for the first time without a loved one. Some of you might’ve jumped at the chance to take care of a sick child if it meant avoiding tense discussions with extended family about politics or pandemics or religion. Or maybe some of you were so burned out from the build-up to Christmas that, when it came to the actual day, you just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep until it was over.
But in the midst of my son’s sickness, as I held him over the bucket and winced as he cried, something struck me.
Isn’t this why Jesus came?
I don’t mean he came solely to heal us (although enjoying new bodies and perfect health is something we can look forward to in the future), but that sickness—and our three days of survival mode—was such an accurate picture of people’s helplessness and misery before they meet Jesus.
Those three days were dark and exhausting, but you know what? I’ve never experienced the truth of Christmas in such a stark, clear way. Jesus and the joy of his coming was brighter than I’ve ever known it. And the good news is, he redeems everything hard about Christmas—the grief, the loss, the broken relationships, fighting and disunity which all flow from sin—and one day, he will fully wipe them away.
Presents and cookies, carols and candles, family time and decorations and lights—they’re all great, but it took our canceled plans, a bucket, and some disinfectant to hit home the truly good news of this season.
That’s my hope for you, too: that you can look at your struggles and hard circumstances, admit they’re awful, but then look past them, to Jesus. Be reminded why he came. Be joyful in the light he brings to your dark places, not just at Christmas but in January, too. In every season. And wait in hope for the day he will banish the sin and sadness and sickness forever.
Photo credit: Ankhesenamun