The Friday before Christmas, that clay jar of sadness I'd stuck way back on the shelf somehow developed a crack, overnight seeped the dark bile into every unfilled soul recess so that Christmas Day found me just going through the motions for my children, my family.
Serve the leftover ham. Take the photos. Help assemble the Lego fortress. Smile.
To have a deep soul sadness at Christmas isn't something Christians own up to, much less think. We aren't supposed to feel this way. We are Easter people full of joy, hope, peace, and thankfulness over the babe in the manger, knowing He was born for one purpose--to die. For my worthlessness. My unrighteousness.
And yet, what I'm continuing to learn is that down here, flesh still clashes with spirit; vapors of the body's sadness can still pierce through the soul's everlasting peace and joy.
I had prepared my heart for Christmas. I made sure of it this year. Focus. Christ is coming. We lit the Advent candles, read the daily devotionals for the Jesse tree, spent less to give more of ourselves.
But in the midst of my preparedness came what I hadn't prepared for...or what I only thought I was prepared for. Family unexpectedly left to spend Christmas in heaven. Other family came for an early visit yet left mid-week to spend Christmas at their home up north.
In the fullness of the Christ child's birth, there was a still emptiness.
Perhaps it's that I thought if I prayed hard enough, if I focused on the Christ child hard enough, the flesh wouldn't matter at all, wouldn't hurt.
Not until the evening of Christmas Day when I began replacing reminders of His birth with reminders of His love could I whisper true thanks to Him for coming, feel the genuine gratitude well up through the sadness and lift higher than the ceiling.
This living in the flesh but not by the flesh is hard. Even in the promise of eternity, the long goodbyes of the present are hard. The continued absence is hard.
In this season, the only thing that makes it bearable is Him.
Nothing but my Father's loving presence is enough.
Photos: A few parting love moments with my brother and his wife last Thursday morning.