I know that Christmas has passed. I am posting this anyway, keeping a promise to myself.
The neighbor came to the door on the Tuesday before Christmas. Our house was already full of relatives, and preparations for the big days were underway. The list of chores was published on the refrigerator, both by day and time. Wrapping paper and cleaning supplies littered the kitchen counter. Like Hannibal’s march to Carthage, the elephants of Christmas had already been engaged and were being loaded with the accouterments of joyful celebration.
Her husband had died. She had steeled herself to tell us this, putting all of her energy into making her words sound like an ordinary statement. My mother is coming to visit. Your garden looks nice. My husband died. He had surgery and then… complications. Her voice broke then as she told us about the things she never knew before. How fragile this life is, how someone should always be there for a loved one in the hospital. Her grief skated just below the surface, and I felt bad that she should have to hide the storm inside. If I just had a magic wand, I could sit her down, stop time all around her and say, “Okay, let her blow! It’s safe, and you’ll feel better after this gale.”
I don’t have a magic wand. None of us do. All we have are the seeds of humanity. The small kindnesses we can do for one another. The smiles, the handshakes, the hugs. Arriving on time, leaving late, popping round, and asking after one another. We offer help, and we mean it. We mow grass or pick up mail. We lift up prayers. When we compare the hurt of losing a loved one to the insignificance of our actions, we feel helpless and inadequate. Yet we can’t know how our actions have propped that person up. When we act, we leave an opening for hope to peep through.
Hope is the one thing we cannot afford to lose. I don’t know if Jesus was actually born on December 25 or not, but I’m glad we celebrate His birth at this time of year, when the earth is cold and dark and gloomy. As much as I detest the pomp and circumstance, the false emotion that sometimes surrounds Christmas time, I cling to this; He came so that hope might be possible. The rose of winter; grant that I might keep it in my remembrance throughout the year.