It was harder than usual for me to think about celebrating Christmas this year. Work and family responsibilities competed for my time. Minor issues captured too much of my attention. Watching friends and family members wrestle with seemingly intractable problems sapped my energy and enthusiasm.
And that was even before the Newtown shootings and the ensuing bitter debates shook the nation. The deaths of so many children seemed even more tragic because they happened so close to Christmas. How could I think about celebrating now?
However, I eventually realized that Christmas was coming just in time. This year especially, I needed to drag my focus away from myself, my work, my anxieties, my impotence in the face of so many factors I can’t control or even understand.
Gradually, I began to understand that I can never hope to find enough joy and peace and trouble-free days in my life to bring meaning to Christmas. Rather, it is the meaning of Christmas that brings me the hope of finding joy and peace in the midst of trouble.
And I am grateful that the calendar and the customs of our culture pushed me to step out of my routine this month and gave me the space to recognize yet again that though the darkness has not been vanquished, it has been pierced:
because of the tender mercy of our God
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death
to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:79)
What a blessed message of comfort and joy to me, living here in the shadows. What a wonderful reason to celebrate.