I stuff the stockings. I set the rolls to rise. I turn off the lights to feel the low glow of the Christmas tree and then I reach for the door. The cold air hits my face as I melt slowly onto the stairs. There is something in the clarity and stillness of the night that gives me the grace to breathe and find the love that has met me here every Christmas Eve since that July.
My daddy’s love.
A love so real that I can close my eyes and see him standing there. His dear sweet face. His always warm hands. His smile that he wore as he would bring in present after present on Christmas morning. It is here I freely feel the weight of his absence—before little feet hit the floor and the timer beeps and the love of aunts and uncles and nanas and papas walk through the door.
We sit. We laugh. We talk about all the things—those that he has missed but I suspect he already knows. It is our time.
A time has that has always ended with, But your love has been here and He has always come, Daddy. No matter what, Jesus has always come. It is with this ending that I go back into the warmth, climb slowly up the stairs and slip into bed beside my guy to talk and laugh about the joy that will come with the break of morning.
Some may see it an odd juxtaposition. The weight of loss with the anticipation of joy. But it is one I have known before: the night she and I sat next to his hospital bed. My sisters and brother gone, leaving to breathe out the sadness of the day, if only for a moment. The doctor holding the next 10 minutes with gentleness and reverence. She, with her face snuggled up close to his hand and I, sitting by wishing I could carry it all for her.
It was here my mama and I discovered the truth our hearts already knew: my daddy was Home.
There would be no rally, no resurrection, no last-minute healing. Instead, there would be arrangements and funeral plans and telling the rest of those we loved that he was gone.
I remember the silence most of all. The odd feeling of death and life meeting. My hand holding his while my other hand clung tightly to my swollen belly, with my sweet baby’s kicks reminding me to breathe. Although my voice stayed silent, my mind screamed loudly that this was not how it was supposed to be. The joy, the welcome, the impending birth of one so long awaited and hoped for should be nothing if not happy. And yet, death came, hurt came, tears came, and happy seemed so very far away.
But as life does, it went on, and 6 weeks later, the baby arrived.
And with her welcoming, she brought breath and grace and hope to all of us in our weary, numbing loss. The newness of this little one wrapped up in our arms had ushered in a sweet relief, the kind that does not take away the hurt but salves the wound.
In so many ways for so many of us, Christmas brings us that relief. The baby is our life-giving reminder to breathe. Through illness. Through pain. Through loss. Through broken things. Through disappointment. Through unrealized dreams. The baby is the promise fulfilled. The promise that Jesus will come to us.
So that when the newness of his welcome has faded, the light is not lost.
Be it in the in-between of Christmas morning and the hope of a new year. Or in hospital hallways. Or in places that only you and Jesus dare go. His light is not lost.
Instead in a slow and quiet flame, it grants us relief, seeping into our dry bones and sometimes weary hearts. It is here that uncertainty need not shake us because our wait is over. The baby has come! And even in days ahead, as we take down our stockings and clean out the serving what-in-the-what’s and pack up the trimming from our trees, this truth does not fade. We can rest in the promise fulfilled.
Our Jesus has come and nothing will quench His light. No matter the hard, no matter the good, no matter the journey, no matter the darkness, no matter the year…Our Jesus will always come.