I want to share something about Christmas, but before I do, I want to defend myself. I have seen enough, experienced enough, have been educated enough, and have lived long enough to escape being judged as simply naïve or even ridiculous.
I have seen death and curled up in darkness. I know what despair looks like in others and can feel like in me. I know terror and the anticipation of helplessness recurring. I know obsession and oppression from within. I know toxic shame from the inside out. I know suicide, violence, and loss. I know grief, and hardness of heart. I know judgmentalism and aloneness. I know desperation, heart breaking loneliness, loss of moorings, denial, powerlessness, and the hard, hard concentrated work of giving up hope. I know tears and pretending, faking and acting. I do not write these things as a badge of honor; quite the opposite. I say these things more as a statement of what I wish I didn’t know.
They are more like scars on my heart than any badge of honor. I work in the addiction, depression, and anxiety field in which the things above are so common as to be daily life.
It is almost Christmas Day. Even with all the experience mentioned above, I believe, even more than a child can, that an angel of the LORD appeared to shepherds in the field who followed the angel’s words to Bethlehem. I believe they went to a stable, and they found Joseph, Mary, and a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth lying in a manger. I believe that the mother was a virgin who birthed the Son of God. That wise men, bearing gifts, eventually presented themselves sometime afterwards. I believe that they had been looking for years for what the shepherds experienced one night through serendipitous circumstance. I believe that Joseph and Mary raised Jesus, and that eventually he raised them as Savior and Lord.
I have seen and experienced enough in childhood and manhood that could contradict this wild story, but I believe it. I don’t believe it like wishing. I believe it like air. I don’t see air; I breathe it in and out, not by faith alone, but for life itself. I don’t just believe it. I know it like air. And I live in it like air. It is what keeps me going in the midst of all the realities of the sorrows. My heart is made bigger than its scars, and my hope greater than despair by what happened in Bethlehem. We never have to be alone because of what happened that star filled night. We never have to give up hope because the eyes of our hearts have received this great light, this great lasting air, the air that can reach into the suffocating circumstances of everything I mentioned in the beginning of this writing, and breathe life.