It’s a question every hurting heart has to answer if you celebrate a traditional western Christmas: Will I put up a tree this year?
I had a few months of lonely travel through the Valley of the Shadow of Death before I had to answer that one.
Dominic left us at Easter, so by December I had learned that wishing didn’t make anything better nor did it make decisions disappear.
As Christmas drew near, I just could not bring down the usual decorations from the attic.
So I didn’t.
Instead of trying to work up the courage to dig through boxes and decide what I could or could not bear to see that first year, I bought a new, small tree and put it atop the table in the living room.
How do you arrange pieces of happy memories in a world where everything has changed? How do you touch bits of who you used to be when you have no idea who you are right now?
I decided that even if I didn’t put one other decoration on it, I would have the company of sparkling lights in the darkness of winter evenings.
The lights remind me that the night has limits.
Their tiny twinkling helps me remember that even a small bit of hope is enough to hold on to.
This is the ninth Christmas since Dominic ran ahead to heaven and it is just as hard as the first one.
Each year there are additional challenges and additional heartaches on top of the giant one I carry every day. I’ve found that these years since he left I don’t do well with a lot of the trappings surrounding Christmas.
But what my heart holds onto is the promise of Christmas:
That the Baby became the Man and the Man was Messiah.
I light the lights because they remind me that darkness has limits.
I declare by my defiant act of celebration in the midst of heartache that one day every hard thing, every sad thing and every broken thing will be redeemed and restored.
My prayer for all the hurting hearts this year is that God will make His love real to you in ways you neither expect nor could imagine.
May you find some symbol this season that speaks courage and gives you strength to endure.
And may the promise of Christmas give you hope, even in the darkest night.