This will be my 48th Christmas/holiday season. As I reminisce about Christmases past, I can think of the fun times: stringing popcorn together with my grandma, waking up my parents on Christmas morning (early…really early), trying to beat my brothers and be the “first” to see the lighted Christmas tree on top of the Nickel Plant, asking for a horse year after year, spending Christmas day playing with presents, the red velvet cakes, the church pageants, Luke 2….
But, not every Christmas was a joyous occasion. I know that for many of you, this Christmas is not going to be in your Top-Ten on your “Happy Christmas Memories” list. And, not all of my Christmases have been great. In fact, there is that ONE CHRISTMAS…the one that was the most horrid of all. Maybe you have had THAT CHRISTMAS. Maybe you are experiencing it this year, but nonetheless, here is my story:
The absolute worst Christmas I experienced was a decade later in 1999. The marriage to the ex had been exponentially deteriorating since my ex-husband had been fired from his church job in September 1999. At this time, his undiagnosed mental illnesses were manifesting full force. The alcohol, drugs, boyfriend, and abuse were more than taking its toll. I was a shell of a person, as the stress was wearing on me big time. After Thanksgiving 1999, I got the I don’t love you, I never loved you speech from the ex and he moved out. Then, he moved in. Then, he moved out. Then, he moved…oh, I don’t remember how many times he moved in and out, but it became a dreadful, confusing, and heart wrenching pattern in our household for weeks.
I did not want to decorate the tree that year because I was not in the most festive of spirits, but I had 4 and 5 year old who were eagerly anticipating the arrival of Christmas morning, so I dutifully trudged on. Because of my parents and my church family, my children had presents to open. However, on Christmas Day, the X supposedly had to work his part-time job (that he was using to pay rent for a place that he rented when he moved out….I had no income at the time) at the airport early that morning, so we had to wake the kids up at 5:00 am so they could open their presents in front of their dad.
We had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner that afternoon and the X was supposed to meet us there (the friend knew what was going on). We waited on him for what seemed like an eternity and when the X finally showed up, he was drunk. Besides the time we were at the friend’s house, I spent the day pretty much alone playing with my son’s Nintendo. The kids were exhausted and, mercifully, took the longest nap ever that day.
The next day, I wanted him OUT, OUT, OUT and I wanted all reminders of Christmas GONE. In spite of my protests, he insisted on helping me take down the tree and boxing up the decorations. Fighting tears, I tried to get the decorations put away as quickly as possible, as he promised to LEAVE the house as soon as they were put away. A couple years later when I got the stuff out of storage, I realized that his horrible, sloppy attempt at packing the decorations had resulted in many, many broken ornaments.
That was the same day (I think, or it may have been the day after) that I hauled him up to the County Health office, where the diagnosis of bipolar disorder was confirmed. One of my adult piano students and I had talked at great length over the preceding months and, after observing his actions and behaviors, she had suggested the bipolar disorder to me….looking back, it all made sense.
So, yeah, that was a crummy Christmas. I was sad. I was alone. I was depressed. My marriage was over. I had no job. My future had crashed. My world stopped. I did have some support from my friends, but most of them were married and really didn’t understand what I was going through. And then, there was that horrible, awful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach would not go away. I cried until the tears would not come.
BUT…and praise God for the “buts”…Christmas happened. It happens, not because of decorated trees, presents or pretty music. No. It happens because of the baby who was born over 2,000 years ago. Yes. It is ALL ABOUT that baby.
It is all about the Creator of the Universe who loved us so much that He came as a baby to save us….not from the circumstances that the world has to offer (because, let’s face it: life can stink sometimes)…no, to save us from the hopelessness that we would have without Him.
Because of Jesus, we have HOPE. Because of Him, we know that we are passing through this life and this life is temporary. Because of this baby, even when we sit depressed and alone, we have HOPE.