And I realize: sometimes Advent hurts.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
It was rainy and soggy that day two years ago. Rain, soft, completely chaotic because of all that water pouring down from the sky. We were rushing to the gym, all of us, going to work out before the Christmas Eve festivities (and eating) were under way. He had to go change into work out gear, but instead went -quietly- out the front door into that drippy, wet weather and disappeared.
In the hustle and bustle, we didn't notice his absence until we were running out the door. His gym clothes laid on the bed, untouched. Him, no where to be found. And the blanket of panic fell quickly upon the house -every one of us panicked, shouting his name out into the rain with no response. A blanket, like fiberglass, soft to the touch, but filled with spiny shards of our own broken hearts.
Let your heart be light/ From now on, your troubles will be out of sight
It was that day, rainy and soggy two years ago, that we surrendered. We found him a half mile away, soaked and cold, brought him home and warmed him up. He was upset he didn't get his walk, we were upset he went missing so easily. And we waved the white flag in a war against maintaining the disease that riddled his mind.
Advent -and the safety of being excited about the Savior- was punctured. Thousands of tiny holes that hurt.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
And we looked at each other, tears streaming down our faces, and I said what no one wanted to hear. I said, he's not safe here. We can't do this. My voice shook and cracked and we watched as our tears dropped on the dry, grey concrete under the overhang as rain poured from the heavens around us. Just like the tears that dropped, dispersed, left their mark on the matte surface at our feet, so broke our holey hearts.
What wasn't certain rose to the surface of all the drippy drops of water and laid on the shores of our souls as fact. It stared us in the eyes, undeniable and bold, waiting for our next step, a step that wasn't crumbling and flattening under it's watchful gaze. But instead, a final celebration, together, as a family around a Christmas tree.
Make the Yule Tide gay/ From now on, your troubles will be miles away
And we knew, this was our chance. Our chance to make these two days -the eve and the Christmas- merry and gay. We knew on the other side of forty-eight hours sat the most daunting decisions we'd yet to make, but for now, cheer, hope, a birth of our Savior. We tossed the hard traditions, the ones too complicated for him to comprehend and we picked up a few new -Christmas Lane walking, brownie baking, paper plate ornament making.
We let the hurt sit, ignored and looming, and we celebrated. We let Advent fill our souls washing out the bitter, salty pain. We held tight, made paper plate ornaments, cried quietly into balled-up crumbles of wrapping paper in intermittent woes. We started his beloved tractor and hooked up the hay wagon and we journeyed down the street in blankets and flannel pajamas.
Here we are as in olden days/ Happy golden days of yore.
And now, two years later, we're here, where we are, and Advent still holds a sting. As we celebrate, sing carols, call out for the faithful to come and see, there's an underlying ache. There's the memories of it as the beautiful, carefree, birthday celebration of youth. And then there's today. There's the sadness, the missing, the way time moves on, carrying us with it whether we want to go or stay.
But the man of Advent -one Christ- knows hurt and pain. He knows it, defeats it, and introduces hope.
Faithful friends who are dear to us/ Gather near to us once more.
So we gather. We bolster one another. We hold close and tight and collect all those bits and pieces of broken heart that surface among the fallen pine needles that are this time of year. We thank friends who dress our wounded parts, we admire twinkle lights in the darkest moments of night, we celebrate that babe who gave us Hope.
May hope invade what hurts. May those who gather draw ever-near. May merry and bright bring comfort. May you see that little twinkling light in seeming darkness.
May Advent hope.
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Lyrics from Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas