I still remember the first year that my aunt and uncle decided not to come home for Christmas.
Up to that point in my young life, Christmas had always revolved around Grandma’s house, and there was no reason in my mind why it should change. Until it did.
Christmas seemed smaller that year, and I don’t mean less presents. I was so used to the bustling, joyful sounds of many cousins, extended family dropping by, and hours filled with Christmas cheer, that it seemed somehow diminished when change came around.
My childish heart had a lot to learn.
I hadn’t yet learned that traditions will look different for different people.
I hadn’t yet learned that people value different ways of celebrating.
I hadn’t yet learned that it was the people I was longing for, not the tradition.
Full disclosure: my tradition-loving heart has never strayed from the idea of “Christmas at Grandma’s house.” For the first time in almost 25 years, my husband and I, and our children (who are all nearly adults now) will celebrate Christmas at home. We won’t be traveling to Grandma’s house, or through the Narnia-esque passes of Idaho and Montana to see our many relatives.
My childish heart is still learning.
I’m still learning to be ok with it when traditions have to change.
I’m still learning how to sit with change and let it change me.
I’m still learning how to hold my traditions loosely, especially as our family life changes as our children grow up.
Back in July, I wrote a post with some practical tips for how to handle it when our favorite holiday traditions can’t be the same. You can read that post here. As our holiday traditions once again look different, I find myself marveling at our human capacity for both grief and joy.
Jesus, God with us, was a man of sorrows, yet He was also anointed with the oil of joy- more than all His brothers. (Is. 53:3, Ps. 45:7, Heb. 1:9)
There is capacity within humanity for both.
As we finish the Advent season with our culminating celebration of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us, let us remember this:
Pain and joy can exist within the same moment of time.
You have permission to seek and find lightness and laughter, even in the midst of lament.
You are allowed to long to wander yet still feel homesick.
As we head into the final days of the Christmas season, I’m reminded of these words: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” (O Holy Night, Cappeau, Public Domain)
We are weary from a year filled with grief and change, yet there is hope. Our traditions look different this year, yet there is hope. Even as we grieve and celebrate, as we lament and laugh, there is hope.