It’s Christmas morning, 7:00 am. I am sitting in the living room, wrapped in a blanket. My kids are still asleep.
Today, there will be no gifts, no celebrating. Instead, my kids will get up, pack their bags, and leave for their dad’s house. They will be gone for ten days. I don’t think I will ever get used to this part of divorce.
But, we’ve made the most of our time together. I took the last three days off work so I could have some time with my kids. Monday, I took them to the mall, and we had a scavenger hunt. We ended our day with a movie together. Tuesday, we did some cooking and made a gingerbread house. We also celebrated my dad’s birthday. Wednesday was Christmas for us. Santa came. We opened gifts. We celebrated with my family. And we ended our celebration with an 11:00 pm Christmas Eve service with a friend of mine and her family. It was the perfect end to our celebration, remembering our Savior who came as a baby to save the world.
It has been a good Christmas.
But, even after six years, Christmas is still hard. I sometimes think it is actually getting harder instead of easier. I know that the last two years, I have had an extremely difficult time getting into the Christmas spirit. My kids are getting older, and the excitement and anticipation isn’t the same. I no longer have any kids that believe in Santa. And, it’s yet another year that I will find myself alone, another reminder of the broken condition of our family, another year of clinging to God’s promise that he has a beautiful future for me despite the current circumstances.
I don’t have ideal circumstances. In all reality, I will never have ideal circumstances again. My family has been permanently altered. My kids will be forced to split time between parents for the rest of their lives. I wish my children didn’t have to experience the hurt and pain of a broken family, especially at the holidays.
But, then I remember my Savior.
Mary was an unwed teen when she became pregnant. In her culture, that was enough for her to lose her life.
Joseph had the right to divorce his fiancé, to simply put her away and forget she ever existed. And yet, he chose to walk in obedience, to cling to God’s promise.
Their circumstances were broken, humiliating. It was enough to leave them as outcasts in society.
And then, they were called away, circumstances going from bad to worse. They had to return to Bethlehem for a government ordered census. Mary, who was very obviously pregnant and I’m sure quite miserable, was loaded on a donkey for the long journey. I can only imagine how uncomfortable that was.
They looked for a place to stay. As the size of the town swelled for the census, rooms were hard to come by. Or, did people simply turn them away because of their less-than-ideal circumstances? Regardless, there was nowhere to stay.
Finally, they found a place in a stable, surrounded by the animals. There, Mary delivered her firstborn son, her unplanned and unexpected child. She wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger.
There, in a food trough, was the Savior of the world. There lay a baby whose life started under less than ideal circumstances. His entire life would be less than ideal in the eyes of the world.
And yet, in God’s eyes, his life was ideal. He was conceived in heaven, delivered in humble circumstances. He would have been voted most unlikely to succeed in the eyes of the world, and yet in the eyes of his Father he was perfect culmination of the long-awaited plan to save the world. He was love incarnate.
He walked this earth, rejected by many. And yet, he bestowed incredible love, mercy, and grace on all those he came in contact with. His life, as broken as it was, was the exact path his Father had for him. It was this broken life that continues to save us even today, to clothe us with righteousness so that we can approach the Father with confidence.
As painful as the holidays can be when you come from a broken family, God doesn’t see our lives as broken. He sees them as a canvas, a mosaic that he is piecing together into a beautiful picture. The pain is constantly being used to refine us into his image, to teach us to exhibit the grace, mercy, and love that Christ himself exemplified.
Life is about so much more than what happens to us; it is about what we do with it. Life is about allowing our circumstances to change us, to make us better. Life is about allowing God to be glorified in our lives—especially when our lives are broken.
When others see us walking through the pain with grace and joy, they are drawn to us. They want to know what gives us the strength to keep walking. They want to know how we can have joy when our lives are so broken.
It is through the pain and the brokenness that we can point others to that special gift, born into broken circumstances over 2000 years ago.
Is your life broken and painful? Are you struggling to cling to hope for a brighter future? You aren’t alone. But, because of a baby born into broken circumstances, we have hope. He is our example. He is our joy. He is our perfect gift.
Embrace the journey. Embrace the pain. Embrace the future he has planned for you.
Embrace the hope born that Christmas day.