I love the Christmas season.
I love all the Christmas things. The decorations, parties, trees, the hustle and bustle, and of course the season of non-stop 24 hours a day Christmas music… Lets just say I’m not mad… unless you are playing “Last Christmas” or Elvis’s “Blue Christmas”… in that case I’m going to need to ask you to stop. But otherwise I can’t deny that I, Natalie Epps, suffer from long-term nostalgia, and I make no apologies for it.
And if there is one thing the last several years have taught me about the holidays, it’s that I love finding any excuse to gather together people who I love. I love taking the time to be present in a moment with them, even if just for a short while.
But today the memory i felt led to share as I reflect back on Christmases gone by, is the last Christmas morning I spent with my dad. Not because our family was so happy, not because we spent the morning telling each other things we appreciated about one another, but because we were all there. I remember sitting together on our living room exchanging gifts. We enjoyed the morning in the midst of knowing my dad was sick, but we never imagined that this Christmas would be our last.
I had gotten engaged months earlier with my dad and sister while in New York. The only thing my dad wanted that year was a book of those memories that he could hold in his hands and look back on. I gave him a black photo album with the words “New York” across the front and watched as he smiled and teared as he flipped through the pages.
And he gave me a bell.
A beautiful painted porcelain bell that played silent night. The girls have come to love it so much that it has been relegated to my kitchen sink window sill as to avoid an untimely demise. Each year I pull that bell out of its box, and each year two feelings wash over me. Deep joy at the beautiful reminder of my dad on that morning, and deep sadness knowing that another Christmas is coming without him.
That bell brings joy and that bell brings pain. But the most important thing that bell brings, is a reminder. The reminder that as we celebrate another year with family and friends and parties and food, that there are those around us who have found once again the rhythm and balance of holding joy on their face and grief behind their back.
This isn’t a downer from me to say that you shouldn’t be joyful in this season because others are hurting. On the contrary actually…
What I think is so important to remember today and in this season, is the truth that with every new and fun memory being made, there could very well be a bittersweet one tucked underneath the carols, family gatherings, laughs and gifts… and the message that I want to share today is, “it’s OK”.
To me, the true beauty of Christmas is that when our world was at its darkest, that’s when hope was born. Circumstances may not line up with hope for you this year, but I pray that the nature of who God is, who Jesus was born to represent, will.
Peace, hope, gentleness, goodness, joy and victory. I hope they are the banners that cover you through this season. And if you’re not someone who has been touched by a blue Christmas, I ask that this year you take a look around you and make space for someone who has. Ask a question, share a laugh, a hug, a testimony, a tear… share vulnerability. Share the simple joy of all this season declares.
And if you’re one of my friends with hurt in your heart today, I want to just say this over you… Christ has come. The world and it’s situations may disappoint at different points along this journey. But the goodness and richness of who God is never will. Make new memories purposefully and hold on to the old intentionally. After all, it’s the beautiful mix of the two that make you, you.
Merry Christmas, friends.