I bought two boxes of Christmas cards the other day. They’re sitting on my table until the time comes to start filling them out and sending them to people. The top box has a beautifully designed card with a single word across the front: Joy.
And today when I saw it, I thought – “That card couldn’t be further from the truth this Christmas. There is no joy. This year’s end is the saddest I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
If only we could just reverse the clock and go back to the year’s end three years ago.
Where I was laughing with my friends in Leavenworth on my thirtieth birthday.
Where I got to stand up at our Women’s Christmas Dessert and share my heart.
Where our college group had our annual fall retreat at Silver Mountain Resort.
Where my dad’s voice was asking us what we were thankful for around the Thanksgiving table and reading the nativity story to us on Christmas morning.
Where my grandma’s soft laughter rang out as I curled up on her couch and shared a cup of tea with her and my grandpa.
Where it wasn’t a crime to gather with friends and family during the holidays.
Where people weren’t angry with each other all the time.
Where faces didn’t have to be covered in masks.
I had no idea. No idea that the end of the year 2020 would look like this. And that the most basic parts of the holiday season would be the ones I would long for the most.
My heart sinks with the thought of so much sadness and so little joy at the end of this year. When joy is the thing I love to embrace the most from the end of November to the beginning of January.
And then – truth quietly creeps into my heart.
This is exactly why we need Christmas. Because the world is terribly heart-breaking, and God was never going to leave us on our own in the midst of it.
Isaiah 9:2-3, 6a says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil […] For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given …”
God saw Israel in their darkness. And He see us in our darkness. And He provides the light – with the birth of His Son, Jesus, here on earth.
And this is what brings us the joy and hope when we feel the most sorrowful. Joy isn’t necessarily the happy feeling we get when everything is going the way we want it to. Rather, it’s that quiet sense of “all will be well.” Even when it seems impossible. Even when everything we love has been taken from us. Even when the tears won’t stop falling.
Because God says, “There is a hope for you, and surely that hope will not be cut off.”
This year’s ending is not the ending to the story. It’s the ending to a very sad chapter. But the Author of the story knows there’s more to come – and it ends with the return of the righteous King, the One who will bring justice and “make all the sad things untrue.”
If He hadn’t been born as the baby Messiah all those years ago, then we really would have no reason to celebrate this year. There’d be no reason to put up the tree, listen to the Christmas music, or wrap the presents. There would only be numbness. Emptiness. A masking over of the weight of all the heavy things.
But because He did come, our celebration can take on that quiet contemplation and rejoicing of what He brought – and what He’s bringing again. It can guide us to the foot of the manger which leads to the foot of the cross. And as it does, our hope will only grow more deeply for the celebration in heaven one day. Where all joy will no longer be tinged with sadness. And where all the longing from the weary days will be put to rest in beautiful completion.
The end of this year may not look the way we want it to. But our Prince of Peace is still doing the work of comforting our hearts and drawing them to Him. And that is what we most need this holiday season.