What makes December 25th truly unique in our family is that is also happens to mark 50% of our family's birthdays. My dad, Angela and Christina were all born on Christmas Day. In part 1, I mentioned one of the many traditions in our house. The morning of December 25th usually went down something like this:
6:00 AM or earlier- Angela wakes up and wakes up whoever she can, usually Emily and myself (and yes, in that order, and yes, this was up until last year... her 26th birthday...) We would wait until a more humane time to wake up the rest of the family that our mom had specified the night before. We'd all open stockings after of course fingering through all the little wrapped gifts in order to try and guess what they all were. Dad would never open a gift before trying to pre-determine what was inside! We'd open our "Santa" gifts and by this point our dad was often back asleep on the couch. He wasn't yet caffeinated.
After this, Christmas was totally put on pause. We'd move over to the table for birthday breakfast. All the birthday presents had to be wrapped in birthday paper. No one dared break this cardinal rule. We'd eat one of mom's breakfast casseroles, open presents and then move onto the cake. For this part, the twins would climb into my dad's lap no matter how big or small they were and we would sing Happy Birthday.
We'd take the famous picture of the three of them blowing our their birthday cake and of course one smiling for the album. My mom has an album full of just this picture from every year for the last 26 years! As they got older, dad became less and less visible in the picture but you could always see his famous smile poking out from between them!
This Christmas Eve, we had a pre-Christmas cry together and shared how this birthday moment was the one we were all dreading the most, especially the twins. It would be one of those times when his absence would feel like a meteor-sized crater.
The birthday breakfast this year hovered like a storm cloud in the room. No one seemed like they were in a hurry to get to the birthday and once we did, it really felt like, "let's just get this over with." We ate, sang and took the picture. It just wasn't the same. At this point my mom said through tear-filled eyes, "It just feels like someone is missing." Indeed it did.
However, it wouldn't truly be a "Jesse" moment without a little comic relief. Before we could all burst into tears, Mike who had stepped out of the room for a moment, yelled from the next room in a silly voice, "Don't worry guys, I'm right here!" Another moment recovered by humour...
The mixed feelings about Christmas this year may not change for the next while. The fact is, it is different and it really won't ever be the same without him. However, if we peel back the gift giving, birthdays and traditions, there is a greater unshakeable occasion that will never change.
The true reason we celebrate Christmas is because this is when God sent Jesus to earth. Our God is a relentless pursuer and he loved us too much to let us perish. He came to offer us the free and eternal gift of salvation. Because of this, we have a painless, sinless eternity in heaven to look forward to if we have accepted this free gift. Despite how tough moments may get now, they are temporary.
It seems as though the child-like excitement for Christmas tends to fade as we "grow up." I have asked God as I have gotten older, not to let me forget what Christmas is all about. Even though this was the toughest Christmas thus far, I have been reminded of what it is all about. Yes- family, gifts, and traditions are wonderful, but the Christmas spirit I think, stems from a spirit of thankfulness for what God has done which allows the hope, joy and peace that He provides flood our lives and into into the lives of those around us.