On my Christmas tree, high above where chubby toddler fingers can reach, hang three ornaments side by side. A pair of baby slippers, a ceramic work boot, and a ball with the name “Jon” inscribed on it. Three symbols of a life well lived but cut short.
My heart was heavy as I adorned the tree, yet filled with precious memories from the few years I got with my amazing husband. And as I looked around the room at my giggling, dancing little girls, I felt joy seep back into the cracks in my heart. I caught the eye of the man who chose to love all my brokenness and shared a teary smile. Christmas is a beautiful time of togetherness with the people we love most. But for those of us who have lost, every year it is an invitation to rejoin the dance between joy and sorrow.
Loss is everywhere we look in this broken world. And the sting of grief is felt stronger during the season when our thought are filled with memories of what was and, more painfully, what could have been. Participating in family traditions after loss is like looking at a masterpiece into which a gaping hole has been punched. There is still beauty there, but it is monumentally difficult to divert your eyes away from the missing piece.
This year, the sting of separation will be felt by more people than ever in our province, our country, and our world. While not everyone faces loss through the death of a loved one, the Christmas of 2020 will undoubtedly face stark differences from seasons past. As we navigate the ever-changing set of rules and regulations many will have to make sacrifices. Loved ones will be separated, sometimes by a border, sometimes by a window, and never will this be felt more than during the holidays.
However, the sting of separation is not the end of the story. It is not the root of what drives us, or the core from which we operate. It is a symptom – a terrible symptom of a beautiful condition.
Why does separation hurt so much? Because we love our people more than anything.
Would we trade the love we have for them in order to not feel pain at their loss? I can’t speak for everyone, but my answer is easy. Not in a million years.
Love is the root of it all. Love is worth it. And never has this been shown more profoundly than when our God, the King of the universe, separated himself from his only Son. To to save us. We can’t imagine the pain our Lord felt when he separated himself from his boy and saw him come to earth only to be mocked and persecuted and murdered. And yet…
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:9-14
Our Lord knew he would suffer. But he saw us and loved us and wanted to ensure that we would never experience the ultimate pain of separation from him. So he took it. Christmas was the beginning of it all. That babe in a manger is so much more than a symbol or a Christmas carol.
Amid the sparkles and tears and cookies and memories, Christmas is a time when Christ came down. Came to face separation between Father and Son so that love would win in the ultimate victory over death and sadness.
I will still ache this Christmas. I will long for Jon, still deeply miss family members in other provinces. But when the twinkling lights are blurred by tears I will try to remember that this is the price of love. And love is always worth it.
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