We still have our Christmas tree up. Since Ellia spent Christmas week in the hospital we have a lot of Yule-tide to make up for. We’ve been making ornaments and gingerbread houses even though New Years has come and gone. When Ellia was younger, she wouldn’t have known she was gipped on her Christmas experience. But now, she gets it. She knows the presents under the tree should have been opened. She knows the Santa visiting the hospital isn’t real. It feels like she’s been disillusioned too early. It certainly feels like she’s older than 6.
I asked the hospital if we could have a punch card. After our 7-month-old Owen was finally released after his struggle with respiratory distress, Ellia hit another paralytic episode.
When we woke up on Christmas Eve, she lied about her legs hurting until she couldn’t walk.
Soon we were at the hospital and Ellia couldn’t sit up in her wheel chair. When she fell out of her chair we both sat there sobbing. The nurse rushed in and asked if we were ok.
“Yes.” I told him. “It’s just hard knowing what’s about to happen.”
I hate staring it in the face. I hate knowing the dark road ahead.
And her pain is the worst part.
Ellia can’t move, but if she could, she wouldn’t because of how badly it hurts. She can’t even handle being touched.
I had big hopes for the morphine and the hydrocodone. I prayed to God they’d cut through the pain, but they didn’t.
When it gets this bad, she starts to lose hope. I can see her turn inward. Her tears come less frequently. She just wants to quit.
So we try to distract her. I dance like a crazy person, I sing her favorite songs, I let her watch anything she wants to watch.
But she can’t seem to see me. She was even unmoved by the donated presents the hospital delivered.
To her, it wasn’t Christmas. It was hell.
And I sat there on the oh-so comfortable hospital couch bed, watching her and thinking about our Christmas Eve.
I knew deep down that even though it was non-traditional, it was still Christmas.
Ellia was in awful pain, but she wasn’t the only one.
There are kids who are dying, parents who are struggling, families and nations wrecked by genocide, violence, and oppression.
So much angst. But all of this darkness—the weight of that which steals, kills and destroys—these are the very reasons Christ was born. A broken world needed Christmas.
In Christmas, we have the inauguration of the kingdom. The transcendent person of God came near. Yeshua—the God who saves was born into a hurting world.
Pain is real. But so is hope.
But pain wasn’t obliterated when Jesus was born in a manger.
Darkness, fear and violence still seemed to reign.
It was after the birth of Jesus that Herod ordered boys two and under to be slaughtered.
If death and pain continued, then what did it mean that the Messiah had come? What did it mean that the light of life was now in the world?
This light broke in slowly at first.
A virgin teenager saw it. A bewildered carpenter saw it. Shepherds amazed at the sight of angels heard it. Wise men sought it.
It was small. It was normal. But this birth shook a world with light.
As real as the light was, it would be a long time before Jesus stood up and read from Isaiah 61.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Somehow pain and freedom, life and struggle are not mutually exclusive.
The light has come, but darkness still exists. We might still be broken, but hope has come. Light actively pokes holes in the darkness.
There is a God who hears. There is a God who sees. There is a God who comes down. There is a God who saves.
And salvation may buck against our expectations. Just like a manger was not the expected crib for the Messiah.
Maybe hope comes in believing there’s an attentive God even when we are in a position of flux.
Maybe hope lies in the fact that Christmas came to the lonely, the anxious, and little girls lying in hospital beds.
Christmas came not once, but continually comes. Once Jesus came in to heal, love and recreate, nothing can be the same.
The pain is real, but so is Emmanuel.
It is this reality we celebrate. It’s this God who came and still comes that makes Christmas night a Holy one.