I often wonder if caterpillars know they will be butterflies…
It’s was around noon on Christmas Eve and I’m getting ready to fuel up to finally do some shopping, nothing better than waiting to the last minute. I see this older gentleman being sat across from me. He appeared to be in his late 70’s, carrying around what looks to be a local newspaper, and had on a pair of sharp black Ray Ban eyeglasses.
He was neatly placing his jacket and walking cap on the coats racks on the side; as we gave each other the let’s not make this awkward nod and smile because we were going to be facing each other in our booths. In the distance, I can see rapidly coming in hot is a chipper, big smile having, and lots of flair wearing waitress. You can tell she is Jilly-Jacked to be there and opens with a drawn out “Merry Christmas Eve”. The older gentleman greets her with a half-smile and chuckle as he’s sitting down. And little did I know I was about to experience a two-sentence conversation that will impact the rest of my life.
“Are you ready to have a Merry Christmas?” The waitress exclaimed.
The older gentleman seemed reserved and just gave a smile like let’s move on. But, bless her heart, she did not pick up on the nonverbal and waited for a response.
“Christmas’ aren’t so merry to me right now.” The older gentleman softly replied realizing this.
In that moment, I looked down and saw that he was wearing a wedding ring and thought to myself, don’t ask a follow up question… don’t ask a follow up question.
And right on cue, “well, why aren’t Christmas’ merry to you?” the well intending young lady asked. With a big gulp and shakiness in his voice, “This is year number ten without my late wife of forty years joining for our traditional last minute shopping lunch, which was always her favorite.” the older gentleman replied.
We often say that it’s a season of giving, but there was no material gift that could be given to replace that older gentleman having his wife with him for lunch. A realization kicked in and I started looking around the people near me and thought maybe Christmas isn’t so merry for them.
Maybe, like the older gentleman it’s a painful reminder of spending another holiday season without seeing the smile of a spouse, family member, loved one, or friend. Maybe, it’s filled with a longing of the things they would give just to spend one more evening with them.
Maybe, they are about to endure another holiday season experiencing the pains from a broken family, divorce, and dysfunction from separated relationships. Maybe, all that their left with are heartbreaking memories of a time when it was something different.
Maybe, it’s filled with the anguish of not having that significant other that they thought they’d have by this time in their life. Or the inability to have the bundle of joy that they so hoped for.
Maybe, it’s a time of seeing a loved one battle with cancer, struggling with an addiction, or the despairing memory of someone who has taken their life. Maybe, just maybe Christmas isn’t so merry right now.
Maybe, Christmas isn’t so much about merriness and giving, but joining. The joining of our sufferings, pains, confusions, weakness, and faults. Maybe, sharing tears with loved ones, friends, neighbors, and strangers who already have, are, and will be experiencing circumstances that are too overwhelming for words.
Maybe the best gift you can give this Christmas is one of compassion, forgiveness, and love.
Every urge in me wanted to join that older gentleman yesterday for lunch, but I didn’t. And I thought about it and him all day yesterday. I realized the best gift I can give him is one of solidarity and understanding that maybe Christmas isn’t so merry right now and that’s okay.
Many blessings to you and your families,
Heads up: Jesus talk below!The beauty of Christmas isn’t so much that The Creator of all things gave, but that He joined. He joined us all in this place of brokenness, heartache, and plagued with death. He joined us in confusion, disbelief, and sadness. He is not a far away God, but one who is near. So, if this Christmas isn’t so merry right now, that’s okay. It’s hard to find cheer without comfort and the promise of Christmas is that comfort has come and is coming again.
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’