Christmas was a huge deal in the home I grew up in. I've gone to great lengths to attempt to recreate my childhood Christmas experience much to my husbands dismay.
Along with the birth of Jesus Christ, we celebrated three other birthdays, my twin sisters and my dad. My mom always joked that they provided both his Christmas and birthday present in 1982— their very own Christmas angels, Christina and Angela.
Every morning on December 25th from 1983 until 2008, we paused Christmas to give full attention to celebrate birthdays. Wrapping a birthday gift in Christmas paper was highly frowned upon, punishable by shaming. For that one hour, we celebrated their birthdays.
Before returning to Christmas morning, there was the annual picture of the celebrants, my twin sisters sitting on each of my dad's knees. As you can imagine, they fit a little easier in the younger years, but tradition lived on. We have almost 25 pictures of them on my dad's knee, including when his face barely poked out from between his adult twins perched on his knee.
And then came May 5, 2008— the day he realized he would see Jesus sooner than he thought, and August 17, 2009— the day he actually did.
Christmas wasn't the same.
No one said it aloud as Christmas approached in 2009, but there was a certain dread that hovered in the air. What would it be like without him? We all packed up and headed north to my sister's farm. The thought of being at home for Christmas without dad where nothing was the same felt unbearable.
There were still some laughs and much joy— and then came time for birthday breakfast. That same dread hovered over the birthday cake on the table but no one moved toward it. Instead, we sat in the next room, feeling the full weight of the void in our hearts with no words and silent tears.
Where do you find hope at Christmas when home has gaping holes?
When the place of home shattered, the Person of home held the broken pieces in His hands. What gave me, and continues to give me hope, is Home— the one I'll spend forever in, and the Person who made it possible for me to get there.
I find hope in the promise of HEAVEN.
As much nostalgia as I feel for my childhood home at Christmas, the one my heart longs for doesn't have #6 or #143 next to the door.
To be nostalgic is to long for or think fondly of a past time or condition. We often feel nostalgic about that "perfect" past time or condition where we felt safe and loved. The Bible opens with a story of a condition where our hearts were perfectly at home with God. Before sin entered the world bringing with it evil, suffering, injustice and separation from God, humanity was in unbroken relationship with Him. The longings in our heart pull us towards what once was.
"What else does this craving and this helplessness proclaim but that there was once in a man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tried in vain to fill with everything around him... this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself." (Blaise Pascal)
The longing we have for home, especially at Christmas, points to the perfect home that once was. For those who know the Way, it will be again one day.
Pain continually reminds us that this world is not the home we were created for, but we can't find our way there on our own.
I find hope in the ONLY Way.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah prophesied that a Messiah would be born. Some 700 or so years later, baby Jesus arrived on scene in the humblest way that very first Christmas. A child was born, a Son given to us. He was and is Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. God met our deepest needs in the person of Jesus Christ, including the perfect, forever father we want and need.
When He was extremely close to the end of His earthly life, Jesus began to tell the disciples about his impending death. Of course they panicked and asked, "We don't know the way. How will we know where you are going?" He answered not with a set of instructions, but solely with Himself:
“I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus the One and Only, full of grace and truth, declared he was the way to the Father, to peace with God, and to eternal life. There is no other way home, than to repent of our sin, all the ways we miss the mark, and trust in Jesus instead.
This Great Exchange is the most beautiful and mind-boggling thing: by a simple step of faith, I traded my imperfect, sinful, guilty, condemned life, and instead received as a gift, the perfect, righteous, holy life that Jesus Christ Himself lived.
It's a gift to me, but like any lavish gift, it was paid for by someone. It's free for me because it cost Him His life. And, it's free for you too.
How do we live with heaven and Jesus in mind in a world tainted with disappointment? With our eyes and minds set on something that will outlast our earthly lives.
I find hope in living life to MULTIPLY.
A pastor friend recently preached, “Invest your life in something that wil outlast your life.”
As I look through pictures of Christmases of old, I'm always struck by how few of the physical gifts we still have — the tube TV with the flat screen front my parents were so ecstatic about, the latest video game console, or the watch my younger sister bawled with excitement from receiving as a tween.
Don't get me wrong — I love giving and receiving gifts. But I've realized what I remember and long for is the excitement, the feeling of being thought of and loved, and the joy of surprise and giving — all things that embody what Jesus came to give that very first Christmas.
I find hope in living EVERYDAY in light of ETERNITY.
After the first Christmas, Jesus lived approximately, 33 years with one thing in mind: to complete the work the Father had sent Him to do.
The Bible closes by telling us of the perfect home that will one day be.
This life, with all of it's joy, sadness, love, hope, and disappointment, is simply preparation for the next where everything will be made right for those who have believed in Jesus Christ.
If home has gaping holes this Christmas, remember this, Hope is a Person:
"And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:5)
No matter how perfect or imperfect home feels at Christmas, Jesus Christ — our hope, will not disappoint.
I continue to find hope in HOME: Heaven, the Only way, Multiplying and living in light of Eternity.