Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Once, not so many years ago, I thought “the holidays” were forever marred, that I would never be able to enjoy “the season” as much because of the painful memories involved.

My beloved Tom, you see, was diagnosed with incurable, inoperable lung cancer the day after Christmas in 2003. What betrayal! After a happy Christmas day with family, we spent the entire next day in the emergency room, and what was supposed to be a lovely relaxing week off work became a maelstrom of appointments and desperate conversations and adjustment and, yes, some prayer as we sought a better outcome than was promised us.

And we drifted through radiation treatment and eight years of remission and fairly normal life punctuated by scans and updates. And then right at the start of “the holiday season” in 2011, we learned the remission was over and the cancer was once more in charge. Tom spend the entire time, from December 22 until January 4, in the hospital. And six months later, on July 1, he died.

Although those six months really saw the beginning of a new journey of faith for me, I still thought “the holidays” were never going to be really good again.

I was wrong.

I was wrong, because I persisted in seeing that time of year as somehow separate from the rest, rather than part of the seamless whole that is God’s love for us.

I was wrong, because I persisted in thinking of “the holidays” and “the season” instead of the constancy and depth and breadth of God’s love for us which is with us all the time.

I was wrong, because I had linked my experience of difficult times and tragic events to a time of year, and I had allowed myself to focus there instead of on the wholeness of God’s plan for us.

What I’ve learned: The joy of celebrating God’s love for and pursuit of His human creatures is not confined to a season or to a holiday. And neither is the sadness and grief that come with missing someone I loved who is no longer here.

It’s all part of the magnificent integrity of human existence as a child of God.

It feels like this faith journey has accelerated over the past year or so, with wonderful new insights presenting themselves. And as a result, my feelings about this time of year have transformed into a new kind of peaceful, joyful response to God’s love.

I find myself thinking not so much of “the holidays” or “the season” but simply of what we celebrate….The coming of Jesus in human form, His Advent into the world the Father called into being by His Word, the beginning of salvation for His sinful people.

This year, I literally could not wait to decorate the house for Christmas, and what I wanted was light — hundreds of tiny sparkling lights, on Christmas trees, on the porch, in the trees out front, in the windows, on the walls. And even while I was indulging my sudden passion for lights, I wondered — What is going on? I was responding to this desire for light without fully understanding it.

It was while I was twining a string of lights through the branches of a living Norfolk Island pine I had found that the light began to dawn in a vivid and real sense.

In the cycle of the Church year, we prepare to celebrate the advent of Christ, Light of the World — and what better way to do so than with lots and lots of light!

So I happily hung and strung my hundreds of tiny lights and put my candles in all the windows (this house has 17 windows!) and let the joy and peace flow through me.

Because it’s not just “the holidays.” It’s not merely “the season.” It’s one part of the continuing celebration, throughout the year, of God’s plan of salvation for His people.

Because Advent leads to Christmas, and you know what? Even if the rest of the world turns off the Christmas lights after tonight, Christmas really keeps going for quite awhile, and my lights are staying on. And after Christmas truly passes, after we reflect on the way Mary and Joseph became a family with Jesus and how Jesus grew, after we watch the shepherds and the Magi come and go, then we will follow the salvation story into the penitential time of Lent, anticipating and then celebrating the ultimate act of redemption and triumph with Holy Week and Easter. And then we’ll live out the weeks of God’s word and the festival moments of His Mother and His saints until the next cycle begins in Advent.

This journey has taken some time to bring me to this point, and I have no doubt that there are other destinations I’m meant to reach. I’m grateful for all the healing that has come my way as the seasons have come and gone, and my prayer and my hope is that the sense of wonder and awe that comes with this time of year will stay with me as the seasons come and go. And I wish that same sense of wonder and awe at God’s workings in our lives to all who may come across these words.

Merry Christmas!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: