The whole family took a drive today. An hour south on the freeway to visit my aunt and uncle. I walked into their house and grinned at all my aunt’s Christmas decorations. My daughter was enthralled. My aunt has stuffed Christmas animals everywhere. They sing. They dance. A couple of penguins twirl about. There are two dogs that flap their ears in time to Jingle Bells. There was glitter and ribbons and tinsel and presents. My four-year old danced with the penguins and repeatedly pushed each button. At several points there were competing songs going on in the menagerie. Slightly loud but tons of fun. I looked in my Grandmother’s old bedroom. She died on New Years Day last year. I promptly burst into tears.
Ever notice that Christmas is like an amplifier? Everyone works hard to have a perfect time, but sometimes in the midst of joy, sorrow feels sharper. The first Christmas was no different. I can’t imagine that spending the night in a barn watching his fiance’ give birth was exactly what Joseph had in mind. Mary was clearly in pain due to childbirth but also I imagine she was relieving some difficult conversations with friends and family about her baby. Jesus was feeling His first moments away from the glory of heaven in a fragile and helpless position. Painful. Lonely.
There were angels and choirs and visitors and gifts and promises and hope. Jesus, fully God and fully man, also knew even at that time what the end of the story was about. Redemption, peace, great joy.
Our society doesn’t know how to deal with sadness very well. Sometimes I think the best thing to do is accept it, have a good cry and get back to the party. John Piper, in the book Taste and See talks about how to deal with times of commingle joy and sadness in a section called “The simultaneous sound of laughter and weeping”. I loved this line;
My prayer for myself and all of you is that our weeping might be deep but not prolonged. And while it lasts let us weep with those who weep. And when joy comes in the morning let us rejoice with those who rejoice.
That first Christmas had to be overwhelming. I think Mary had the right approach to the balance of grief and amazement. The Bible says in Luke 2:19 that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”.
Today, my family cried with me, gave me a big hug and then we opened presents. My daughter got a new doll that giggles whenever she is moved. We named her Pearl, my grandmother’s middle name. The doll didn’t quit giggling. Her young owner thought it was hilarious. Pretty soon the whole table was joining in. I was crying again but this time from laughing so hard. It was a great day. Lots to ponder.