We sang “What Child is This?” in church this morning and I started bawling. Now, it isn’t uncommon for the tears to flow but today this favorite carol brought on an ache as the memories flooded.
I’ve spent 4 of the last 5 Christmases in a foreign country, away from family and friends, carols in English and familiar traditions. There were no Christmas Eve services to attend, baking cookies was next to impossible with humidity and my tiny oven, and for most of the people around me it was just an ordinary day.
I had to fight especially hard for joy. I dreamed of snow and real Christmas trees, cozy sweaters and peppermint mochas. But most of all I longed for the laughter of my siblings as we stayed up talking on Christmas Eve, “Silent Night” by candlelight, playing games and trading memories with cousins and aunts and uncles, and the sweet sense of togetherness of time spent with family.
Loneliness was my constant companion in those years. There were special moments and new traditions, but this morning it was the painful parts I remembered. The sickness, the grief, the longing. Christmas carols have become a battle cry for hope, a declaration over the country I long to see understand the joy that has been made known but they haven’t accepted yet.
Maybe this year has been full of new adventures and delightful moments. Maybe it has held loss- of precious family, routines, a dream. Our hearts can hold both the beauty of the season and the pain of Christmas too. It’s okay to acknowledge this hurt, to run to our Savior, the light of the world. I’m over here weeping along with the carols, grieving as I remember and hanging tight to hope in the midst of it all.