We had plans for today. While we celebrated Christmas early with both our daughters’ families early, before our youngest daughter and her husband flew off with half our hearts, we intended to start today with breakfast with my parents, followed by a trip to see our other two grandchildren and their parents, four hours away. I was hoping for some chunky baby snuggles and silly conversations with a three-year-old.
Enter everyone’s “wish” for a white Christmas. The snow is pretty, but with the temperature staying well below freezing, we know its beauty this time disguises the treacherous black ice that our little 4-wheel drive isn’t much use against. Maybe we’re getting old, but we decided to make the safer decision to stay home and push our visit back a couple of days. Of course, once this decision is made, the sun decides to come out and we second-guess ourselves.
I know I’m not the only one whose plans are derailed this year. The weather is probably the least factor involved in keeping us from one other. Cancer treatments, illness, work schedules and responsibilities, lack of travel funds…the reasons are many. Some of us may be separated because of broken relationships, unforgiveness, and differences we feel are too big to get past right now. And others are separated not by choice, but because God called our loved one home this year, and the celebrations are bittersweet as memories linger, casting a shadow on the edges of our present joy.
I have wonderful childhood memories of Christmas Day. Each year we rotated between hosting at our home, or my dad’s sister’s home. My brother and I would always wake up early and insist our parents get up. We had to wait in their room until my dad got the wood furnace going and the house started to warm up. (My parents still turn their heat completely OFF at night!) Looking back, I now realize that my parents did not have a lot of extra money (and my dad is notoriously frugal), but we were never disappointed with what we found under our tree. I particularly remember the year my dad bought my mom satin sheets. Haha. Who knew he was a romantic?
Our aunt and uncle, our one cousin on that side of the family, grandmother, and her sister would gather for lunch at whoever’s turn it was that year. I remember playing a lot of Rook waiting for lunch to be ready. (I always lost.) We had a feast – all the usual things like turkey and ham, casseroles, and of course, jello salads. Our Christmas Days were pretty relaxed. I think my aunt always made fudge and other Christmas candy, but I could just be dreaming that up! On warmer Christmas Days we spent time outside, as one or the other of us usually had some new toy or bike to try out.
My cousin is of course all grown up (getting old like me); I haven’t seen him in ages. It’s been years since we had a Christmas Day with my brother, as we all have families and in-laws, etc. that make seeing everyone on holidays a scheduling challenge. I guess this year we all feel the separation a little more because it’s been forced upon us all year long. Christmas is supposed to be the time for togetherness. It’s when we set aside our independent lives in favor of spending one day together.
The thought occurs…today’s separation from those I love is hard, but thankfully only temporary. The sun will melt the ice and we will hug our grandchildren soon. We have every reason to plan optimistically a 2021 visit overseas. I’ll most likely get to see my parents later this weekend, and maybe in a couple of months, be able to get together with my brother and sister-in-law.
What’s more sobering is that an icy road is nothing comparing to the wide gulf of separation that we will all one day experience as we leave this world and enter eternity. The Bible tells us, and I believe it to be true, that those who have placed their faith in Jesus will enjoy an eternal Christmas Day in the presence of God and each other. We will be completely separated from all sin and evil, all pain, all heartbreak. Those who have rejected Christ will be also separated for eternity – separated from the presence of God (who is the only source of anything “good”) and separated from all the people you love. Eternal separation from God is not a big party with everyone who didn’t believe. It’s eternal, tormenting loneliness in a place that you were never intended to go.
Christmas is about Jesus coming to do away with the separation between us and our Creator. He came to us – Emmanuel – God with us. In fact, Jesus had to be separated from His Father for a time in order to enter our world. He knows how separation feels.
Jesus wants us to be together on Christmas as much as we want it and made a way for that to happen. Thankfully, nothing can derail God’s plan of salvation! Today might not have worked out as I’d hoped, but my future is firmly settled on the good news the angels brought two thousand years ago. Truly, it’s the good news of great joy: a Savior has been born – a Savior who has made a way for us to be together for eternity.