Peeking through our front window on Christmas Eve, you’d have seen our clan of fourteen gathered around the table, then the piano, then the Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of Christ (and, to borrow a favorite line from “A Christmas Story,” plunge into the occasion’s “unbridled ecstasy”).
Said clan currently includes kids ages seven, five, three (two cousins) and infant (two more cousins), so you can imagine the level of emotion in the room—sweet moments like the toddlers smothering their baby cousin with kisses, along with the feverish anticipation of opening gifts.
Despite the high energy and quick pace of the evening, we were blessed with meaningful moments—moments to ponder as I head into another new year.
What will matter in 2020? In the new decade?
The first step in making future plans is reflecting on the past.
So there we are, a week before the New Year commences, singing in harmony, Sam on piano, Jed on guitar.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head…
Five-year-old Aviella, clad in her blue and white satin dress, twirls to the music. Younger cousin Lainey follows suite, stretching her arms to emulate the ballerinas in The Nutcracker video she loves so much.
Baby Cal, already smiling from ear to ear at the singing, is utterly captivated by Avi’s dancing.
Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light…
I light the candles on the wooden nativity pyramid. Amanda and Rebecca bring little Asher and Cal close to stare, entranced, at the little figurines spinning from the candles’ heat.
Seven-year-old Reuel pauses to look around at the adults as we sing, capturing the moment in his memory. (After we sing, he’ll read the story of the shepherds in Luke chapter two, his young voice clear as a bell.)
A few of us break into German,
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, alles schläft, einsam wacht…
I attempt to soar above the melody with a descant, the beautiful line which my father’s tenor voice carried every Christmas Eve for many years.
I choke up and miss a few beats. Papa went home to Jesus two years ago, just after Christmas.
Life is a mixture. Joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. There’s precious little in our control.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve lost several grandchildren to miscarriage.
Last year, Amanda got the news at eighteen weeks gestation that Asher’s twin brother (Josiah) was no longer alive.
This year, Jamé happily announced her most recent pregnancy at Thanksgiving. Eleven days later, she miscarried—their third such loss in less than two years.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear…
When we’re with all our kids and grandkids, I often have a strange feeling which I can’t seem to shake—the feeling that not everyone is present.
Then I remember our own two children in heaven, and now our grandchildren.
On this night, I’m happy to see my daughters-in-law joyfully focused on the festivities. With worshipful hearts, we sing,
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.
Jesus, God with us, has indeed come, infusing our futures with hope.
So how can my Christmas, with its piercing moments of joy and sorrow, loss and hope, inform my future?
What 2020 holds is a mystery, but this I know: God-with-us will do deep, eternal, beautiful things with whatever circumstances come my way.
I think I’ll go light on goal-setting this year. I’d rather focus on knowing Jesus better, trusting him more fully, and following him more closely.
Can’t think of a better way to start 2020. You?