Christmas is a season of interruptions. Some we enjoy. Some we don’t.
We enjoy interrupting diets for eggnog, work for a staff party and bill paying for Christmas cards.
Interruptions. They come with Christmas. They come with life.
Just when you sell the crib — surprise! Another child. Just when you’re ready to retire — surprise! More tuition. Just when you thought your plans were finalized — surprise! More layoffs, surgery, transfers or treatments.
Interruptions. They can stir fear and anxiety. They steal our sleep and pickpocket our joy. They can cause us to question God, even turn away from God.
You may be facing an interruption in this season of life. What you wanted and what you received do not match. And now you are troubled and anxious, even angry. Does that describe you?
It certainly described our family on a recent Christmas.
It was the second weekend of the Advent season. I’d spent the day preparing for and speaking at a Saturday night church service. By the time I arrived home, it was well into the evening hours. Denalyn was waiting for me in the kitchen. I could tell by her expression that something was wrong.
“Max, Jenna is pregnant.”
Her announcement did not match her demeanor. Denalyn should have been waving her arms and hugging me. Grandparents at last! But there was no confetti, just concern. Her eyes were tear filled.
“She’s in the emergency room.”
We raced to the hospital.
Emergency rooms do not wear Christmas decorations well. A garland does not make an X-ray machine festive. Red and green bulbs cannot shed a happy glow on a gurney. No matter the song on the intercom, the monitors beep louder than the sleigh bells ring. An ER is still an ER. Even at Christmas. And our daughter was in the ER.
A nurse led us down the hallway into a room. Jenna was on the bed. She tried to be stoic and succeeded, for about 10 seconds. Then she began to cry. She had wanted to surprise the family. She wanted to make a big deal out of a Christmas pregnancy. She wanted to have a baby.
By the end of the night, we knew that wasn’t likely.
By the next morning, the doctor assured us it wasn’t to be.
It had already been a tough season for Jenna and her husband, Brett. His dad had died a month earlier. Their November was gray with sorrow. Now December was going to be even more so.
Jenna said her Christmas felt more like a hole-iday than a holiday.
Maybe yours feels the same. More tear than cheer. More yuck than yule.
The sight of happy children is a reminder of a vacant crib.
The busy social schedule of some only highlights your empty one.
Images of families together reinforce your pain of a family apart.
If this season is hard for you, if you’re looking forward to December 26 more than December 25, then I have a story for you to consider. A story of a young girl.
As much as she tried to keep a good attitude, it was not easy. She was far from home, miles from family and her own bed. She had spent the last few days on crowded roads enduring the winter chill. Money was scarce. Friends were nowhere near. A warm bed and a hot meal? The prospects were slim.
Ask her which was worse, the pain in her heart or the pain in her back, and she’d be hard pressed to make a choice.
Her heart ached for her family. She felt estranged from them. Under normal circumstances they would have been thrilled to learn of her pregnancy. But pregnant before the wedding? With her conservative family and her bizarre explanation?
And to have to tell the man she was to marry that she was carrying a child who wasn’t his? It was a miracle he still married her. And another miracle was what she needed that night.
She’d envisioned giving birth at home: Mom holding one hand, an aunt the other; a midwife, doting relatives, Joseph, and a crowd of neighbors outside the door. Perhaps if they all could have experienced the birth of her firstborn together, then they would believe her story.
At least that’s how I imagine Mary felt. Of course, I could be wrong.
Within moments, the hand of the star hanger clutched Mary’s finger. The feet of the sky walker lay in Joseph’s palm. No wonder the angels filled the sky with worship. Any doubt of the Father’s love disappeared the night God was wrapped in barnyard towels so the hay wouldn’t scratch his back.
In that moment Mary knew it was all worth it. The ache in her back, the ache in her heart — they faded away. The questions of how, the wonderings of when — they didn’t linger. The inn had no place for her son; that was all right. He would find a place in people’s hearts.
She and Joseph were far from home on the night of Jesus’ birth; that was all right. Jesus was even farther from his. There was no warm bed in which Jesus could sleep? No problem.
In spite of the chaos, Christ came.
Through a scandalous pregnancy, an imposed census, an untimely trip and an overcrowded inn, God triumphed in Mary’s story.
In spite of sin and scandal, Christ came.
In spite of racism and sexism, Christ came.
Though the people forgot God, Christ came.
In spite of, and out of, the pandemonium, Christ came.
Don’t you need that reminder? In your world of short nights, hard work, and high stress, don’t you need to know that Jesus holds it all together?
And he will hold it together for you.