Today is December 22, only three days away from Christmas. I’m looking forward to seeing my kids’ faces light up on Christmas Day (for perhaps the first time). Yet the rest of the emotions swirling through me would cast me as the grumpy dad in a Saturday Morning Christmas Special who just can’t get into the spirit of Christmas (sponsored by Dodge Ram).

Christmas 2011 – This is the closest we could get Finley to not crying

Maybe I’m just letting the outward symbols and expectations weigh me down. For example, Finley’s eyes lit up at the Christmas lights popping on house trims and around garage doors throughout the neighborhood. He asked when we were putting ours up, to which I replied something between “that’s too much work” and “Humbug.” Undeterred, he ebulliently offered his help, laughing about how much fun we’ll have doing that project together.

With all that childlike joy, what could I do but give in? Or completely ignore him and hope he forgot all about it.

I chose the latter.


Christmas 2012 – Kella on what she thought of the day

Amy, fortunately, came to the rescue and tied up our stair railing with garland and lights. It wasn’t the glowing spectacle that made our house visible from space (or at least three doors down), but it seemed to satiate Finley’s desire to decorate our home.

And then there’s the tree. First, a history.

We gave away our college-aged tree purchase to a family who needed it more than we did back in 2012. Last year we attempted a live tree, which lived long enough to viciously dump all its needles on our carpet and into a nearby air duct in revenge for being cut down. Our dying vacuum couldn’t handle the stress, and was later put out of its misery,

That tree was hauled to the curb the minute it was socially acceptable to do so. I would have done it earlier sooner had I not feared the reprimand of our HOA neighbors for the audacity to take our tree out a day too soon (turns out I got reprimanded for the tree anyway due to our trash company not hauling away trees. Oh well).

This year, we bought a new tree–fake, of course. It’s a step above our last fake tree, which looked like a failed 3rd grade art project. That old one was about as realistic as those disguised cell phone towers that more closely resemble a mutant tree from a Borg spacecraft than something found in nature.

So our tree. . .well, it’s there and it’s up, and mostly decorated and mostly lit (Kella enjoys throwing ornaments like Molotov Cocktails, and Finley has yet to find a circuit he hasn’t wanted to break). I forced myself to want a tree. It looks nice. It looks Christmas-y. But if we didn’t have one, I would have been okay with that, too.

Christmas 2013 Not Pictured. Apparently I either didn’t take any pictures or somehow lost them. This picture was saved where the Christmas pictures should have been, and it’s a pretty good one of the kids with their uncle Josh.

Yes, Christmas has lost its luster. I’m still looking forward to the giving and getting of gifts, doing my part to keep the economy going (and only bought a couple of bowling balls engraved with my name), but the rest of the season, from the songs to the overflowing parking lots, just haven’t held the same glamor.

In the middle of all this, I’ve found something that has glowed brighter. It might be cheesy, like a Saturday Morning Christmas Special starring Kirk Cameron (sponsored by Chick-Fil-A and the Tim Tebow Foundation), but during this Christmas my thoughts have turned towards Christ.

Christmas 2009 is the last Christmas where I remember getting into the traditional seasonal excitement. We had a lot to be excited about, too, with twin boys on the way. Yet less than a week later, it was emergency rooms, followed by bed rest and doctors and hospital stays and  NICUs.

And a funeral.

A year or so after the tragedy, an older man approached us at the cemetery where our little Oliver’s body is lain. He had been standing over a nearby grave for a while, and must have decided to exchange a few pleasantries with us before he headed home. After our brief conversation, as he started to leave, he turned back towards us, giving a wan smile. “It doesn’t ever go away,” he said, “that sense of loss.” I don’t know his story, and I didn’t ask. The area, though, is called Baby Land, donated as a place for grieving parents to lay their children to rest, so it’s likely not much different from our own.

Years later, his words still ring true.

Since then, there’s obviously been a lot of soul searching. And the closer we get to the anniversary, the more my mind begins to wander. I’ve discovered something over the years, one of those lessons that I never would have chosen to learn.

The world has it backwards. We’ve all heard the refrain, likely even in the past few weeks: How can God exist with all the suffering in the world? Surely a loving god would stop it.

But that’s the wrong way about it. It is through the suffering that I’ve become intimately acquainted with Him. Millions around the world and throughout history would surely agree.

Perhaps more importantly, the present day suffering is focusing on the wrong timeline. I think Christmas is a perfect example of that: we’re celebrating the right person (once Santa and the elves and all that jazz is stripped away), but the wrong birth. Please indulge me while I quote Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:19-22:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

If it ends when we die, it doesn’t really matter what we believe. All that pain and suffering is for naught. But thanks to Christ, it doesn’t end. We will all be born again.

I’ll keep on going with the tree, the lights (where I feel obligated to do so), the gifts, the treats and the songs. That’s what we’re supposed to do, and for the first time ever my kids seem to be excited about it. Yet through it all, I’ll be turned to Christ, and the realization that through his birth, and his life, and his resurrection, we have reason to hope for things to come beyond the grave.