Friday, December 20, 2013

A Thrill of Hope

Our tree has been standing bravely bare in our living room for days, the top and bottom chopped off to make space for our overzealousness in selecting tree size. Lights wrap the top half of the tree, twinkling festively, while the bottom lies conspicuously bare-branched. We needed more lights (because, you know, our tree is ginormous), and we haven't yet had time to stop and get some. Or to unpack ornaments and hang them on branches with joy and holiday delight while drinking hot chocolate and watching Elf, as per my unrealistic expectations. Instead, boxes sit cluttering the living room, pulled down from the attic but unopened. I glimpse a shattered ornament through the plastic lid, and I know unpacking will require plucking shards of impossibly-thin ornament glass from lodged in every bauble and cranny. Our stockings are stacked on the floor, next to Jayci's baby doll and the deflated football Caden has been toting around all morning. We have stocking holders, but I have visions of Caden immediately yanking them onto his sweet-but-also-crazy head, so we need to make a run to Home Depot to buy some hooks, in order to hang our stockings from the chimney with care.
We hurry back from decorating Adam's parents' tree in Marietta, trying to make it in time for Bible study. We've already made pancake breakfast this morning, brought three car-loads of kids to church, and then spent the afternoon Christmas decorating and eating white chili with our sweet family. I am exhausted, and rummage through the trash and empty diet coke cans around my feet in the still-squeaky van, hoping to find a pacifier to stop all-the-crying coming from the back seat. I turn to Adam with a huffy-sigh, feeling a little car sick from constantly turning around to hand Zack my phone, or return things to Jayci, or appease Caden with new toys.
I dont remember Christmas being this exhausting when I was a kid, I tell Adam, feeling old and grinchy and wishing that I had chosen to drive rather than deal with the small children who constantly need things from the back seat. Perhaps my parents weren't as involved, they probably had less friends than us, I remind him. Or maybe it was just a different time, a different pace of life. Whatever the reason, I'm realizing it can be really hard to actually enjoy the holidays when we are so busy running from one activity to the next, all in the name of celebrating the Christmas season.

And if we cant even enjoy the holidays, how can we ever remember (let alone teach our children) the real reason we are celebrating in the first place? How can we anticipate Christ and celebrate Advent, when it taxes my mental capacities just remembering to give Jayci her antibiotics twice a day?

Questions without any answers, I think to myself, as I slip on my sparkly ballet flats with my pajama pants and rush out the door for an impromptu drive to clear my head and calm my heart late last night.

I drive slowly through our neighborhood, careful to follow road signs and avoid the many trolling police officers. Christmas music plays on the radio, festively jingling while crooning of fires and chestnuts and Santa Claus coming to town. Clouds cover the moon, and dark-lined streets are dotted only occasionally by twinkling Christmas lights wrapped around broken porch spindles. I think of Nazareth, and then of Bethlehem. A tiny town filled to overflowing, children playing in the streets, inns with no space, a humble town teeming with life and people. And I wonder what it would look like today? Would it look like this, I wonder? Littered sidewalks, broken glass and boarded-over windows, porches full of people, music bumping, police cars circling. Humble, and broken, yet teeming with life.
A new song begins to play softly on the radio, and I spin the dial to turn it louder.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Stopping at a blinking stoplight, I feel the weariness in my bones. And my heart surges with the thought of what Christmas means for a weary world.

For the man next door, weary with the weight of this neighborhood he has called home for so many years, his door kicked-in and computer stolen. For the pregnant mother, weary from working the night shift, while five of her six children have science fair projects due this week. For a weary grandmother lifted into her wheelchair this morning, so she can go to court with the teenage son of her daughter, lost to the streets years ago. For the harried single-mom, weary from working two jobs to buy Christmas gifts for her grasping children. For the teenager, weary of always trying so hard to fit in, weary of slinging and banging and chasing after everything that slips so easily through his fingers. For the wife, weary of reminding her husband to pick up his laundry, to hang up the towel, weary of telling him she is done with it all. For the busy suburbanites, weary from making car payments and house payments and filling the empty space under their tree with packages that will never quite be enough to satisfy.

A weary world.

I wait for the gate to open and the homeless man with the matted hair to limp by, then pull the car into our yard and slip back into the house under the dark cover of the tired sky.

Maverick barks and Caden cries. Sighing, I rush in and pick him up, I lay my hand against his chest in a rare quiet moment, as he buries his weary head in my shoulder. And then I feel it. A thrill. His little heart beating a unique rhythm, evidence of his defect that flutters against my fingertips. Terrifying and beautiful.
A thrill of hope.

Christ's birth. A Savior who entered in as a baby. Caden's heart flutters, and I imagine him helpless, chest bared and heart beating before my eyes. I remember my baby, and I imagine my Savior. And my own heart thrills, surges with a terrifying beautiful hope.

The kind of hope that thrills a weary world. That promises all things made right, even when everything seems terribly wrong. A heart rewoven, healed and made whole. But never the same.
Tears slip quietly down my cheeks as I lay Caden gently back down and make my way back to my own bed, stepping gingerly over weary hearts and limbs snoring from every available soft surface of our little home.

Exhausted beyond measure, I pull the covers over my eyes to block the street lamp's glare. Still, sleep is elusive, and I am summoned back to pray over a sweet friend, weary of having nowhere to go, no place to call home after her college dorm closes it doors for the holidays. Weary of a broken world and the memories of what could have been. Weary of the shards that cut skin, desperately seeking blood and life and the hope that slips through fingers, as elusive as sleep this night. Tiptoeing back to bed again, the sounds of sleep from the next bedroom remind me of the weary teenager, who has flitted through our family's story for years. Tonight, her weariness compelled her flight from a broken and dark home, and we followed her slowly amidst stubborn refusals to return, with our taillights blinking warning, shouting at the men who tried to stop for a fourteen year old girl. 

A weary world.

And yet. Hope should always thrill. Because the infant-Savior born cuts through flesh and bone until our hearts are bared, re-knitting and healing until everything is turned upside-down, or rather right-side up. And in a messy, dirty, loud, weary world; I am struck anew this evening by a King who enters into a smelly stable and offers the kind of hope that thrills, and never ever disappoints.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

*Life leans crazy around here these days, so this is a re-post from last Christmas.


  1. My most favorite Christmas song. I remember reading this post last Christmas. Love it just as much as last time :)

  2. This is one of my favorite posts that you've done. In fact, I looked it up recently on your blog because the message is so perfect and needed this time of year. Thank you so much!!

  3. i love you because you live my life in another place and i love your heart because God uses it to turn mine towards His and I love you because you are YOU.

  4. O Holy Night began playing on the radio just after i began reading. God's reminder to pay attention to what i am reading, for I am weary. Thank you for a beautiful reminder.

  5. O Holy Night began playing on the radio just after i began reading. God's reminder to pay attention to what i am reading, for I am weary. Thank you for a beautiful reminder.

  6. i know i know. this christmas season has been so hard with being sick several times, falling way behind, having a single mama of 2 little ones move in with us in October...but every time i drive in the car with christmas music on i end up weeping. that song has been particularly comforting this year, i feel desperate for it - it seems like we all are. we certainly are weary but then one day we know that "in His name all oppression shall cease!". thank you for sharing this!


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