Christmas is a season for new – new birth, new hope, new beauty.
Sometimes, however, the holidays are as hard as they are joyous. Good becomes great, but just as much, sadness can become despair. Old wounds are magnified during this time of year. The have-nots feel deeper and the voids more pronounced. When Christmas is hard, it just feels more weighty than other hard days.
My first Christmas after divorce was exponentially hard. I was so sad and lost that season. I pretty much walked around in a daze. Christmas spirit? I wanted none of that.
We decorated, as was required by my children. Christmas tree, stockings, and a few knickknacks. We listened to Christmas music, also required, but to me the jingle bells sounded empty and hollow. I was a closet scrooge, for sure. I tried to whitewash it with a toothy smile, although probably not a very convincing one.
Old wounds felt very raw and new. Hopelessness, despair and lack promised much of the same. My divorce was very fresh, and I was already feeling the guilt of a single mom unable to provide for her children. Despite the despondency, I wanted to try and make things as special as possible. My kids were teenagers, so although gifts were still a desire, they weren’t quite as mission-critical as in years past.
I managed a few small gifts for under the tree, but the stockings would remain empty. Christmas Eve came, and we decided to open gifts that evening instead of our traditional Christmas morning. That, of course, meant they could sleep later, which meant I could sleep later as well. It was a win-win.
After the decision was made, my daughter said smiling, “Let’s make it a new tradition!”
That simple statement comforted my heart in a way I couldn’t completely understand or verbalize at the time. I felt like we were in this together. We were looking at our situation head on and fighting together. The former was gone. There would be no more Christmases with mom, dad and kids gathered around the tree. Our family would never be the same, but we were still a family. We would navigate this Christmas together as a family. We still had a home, and it was filled with great love. We would be okay.
And I had a surprise up my sleeve.
My children knew we were dead broke and they didn’t expect anything for Christmas beyond the few tokens placed under the tree. I had, however, managed to scrape together enough cash to give a small sum to each on Christmas morning.
In an attempt to fluff it up and make the surprise look bigger than it was, I had gotten the cash in small bills. I wrote the first initial of each of their names on their respective bills and randomly clothes pinned each bill to the Christmas tree branches.
They awoke Christmas morning to a money tree and had somewhat of a treasure hunt finding their bills. It looked more lucrative than it was, but they were genuinely thrilled.
I just sat there watching and smiling, completely in awe of my kids. It was a good morning. It is a Christmas we all still point to as a sweet favorite. Sweet because the joy that comes in hard seasons just feels a little more precious. The giving, when there’s nothing to give, stirs more gratitude. And sticking together when your compass won’t budge aligns us in unspoken ways.
Single parents, let me encourage you this Christmas season. What you have to give is enough. Whether little or much, it is enough. If it is simply your time or your talent, it’s enough. The love you have for your kids, the home you make for them, the arms you wrap around them, all of you is sufficient.
Jesus speaks of the widow’s mite in Mark 12 and of the expensive perfume poured over His head in Matthew 26. Both an offering to Him. Both given as gifts from a grateful soul. Both so precious to God. Both promise hope.
Proverbs 13:12 has always been a favorite of mine. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy.”
My favorite new tradition we made that Christmas? For me it was hope. New hope. The very first Christmas brought new life and hope to mankind. I think every Christmas is intended to continue that sweet tradition.
And what else, if not life and hope, is Christmas about?