This is the final post in my series on peace during the holidays.
As I write this I’m sitting in my cozy corner of the family room. The Christmas tree lights are casting a glow from the living room and Mitzie is snoozing at my feet. The subtle sounds of the first day of winter break provide a calm heartbeat…a teenage daughter padding about in jammies…the murmering of father and son talking sports over lunch, faucets turning on, the dryer cycling with clean sheets.
And in my head, the list of “to do’s” scrolls like movie credits. It’s not unusual, of course to feel a bit fragmented this close to Christmas…there are cookies to be baked, last minute gifts to wrap, notes to be written, travel plans to make. Every year, I find that I seem to be racing toward the “finish line,” not so much to have Christmas behind me, but rather, to bask in that finally-finished feeling….knowing that the preparations are complete.
My race-to-the-finish had a bit of a detour this year. My great Aunt Catherine (also known as “Great Aunt Cate”) is in the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She’ll likely be there for Christmas…her 97th one on this earth. Not exactly a perfect scenario.
But Aunt Catherine knows plenty about “imperfect.”
When she married Uncle Dick, she was in her early twenties. He was older, a widower with two young sons. They added two more sons to their family in the years that followed. (and of course, anyone who raises four boys knows that life is FULL of a lot of “imperfect!”)
Their house on Mentor Avenue held all those boys…along with cousins, neighbors and friends. The window in the downstairs bathroom was low enough so the boys could open it from the outside, roll in to use the facilities and roll back out, hardly missing a bit of play time. The kitchen was tiny, and certainly without the luxuries of granite, stainless steel and built-in appliances. It didn’t matter. Everyone was welcome and comfortable. And, with boys, there were probably lots of typical messes in the house and yard… broken dishes, broken bones and broken windows.
There were also broken hearts. Doug, the youngest son, a bright, verbal, quick witted kid, got encelphalitis at the age of two…the doctors told Aunt Catherine and Uncle Dick to put him in an institution, but they brought him home and raised him during a very imperfect time in history for kids with special needs; public school wasn’t an option and services were scarce. Still, they persevered. Doug grew and learned and overcame many challenges.
I asked Aunt Catherine several years ago how she coped with all of that. “Oh, honey,” she said, “We just did what we had to do.” Her greatest legacy, for me, is her courage and resolve in dealing with disability…her sense of peace in brokenness..
And so, as I rush toward the Christmas finish line this year, I’m reminded that the brokenness is really the best part of the story. Jesus didn’t enter into perfect circumstances…His bed was hard and scratchy, and He was surrounded by smelly sheep, and curious strangers. This was NOT the type of “perfect” birthing suite I would have planned for the Prince of Peace!
The Hebrew word for peace is translated as “nothing missing, nothing broken.” It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it? It’s not the sort of peace one can achieve by reading helpful hints for teaching kids or entertaining friends here on this blog. And it’s not the peace that I’ll feel when my to-do list is complete. It’s the kind of peace that only He provides to a waiting, watching, broken world that is hungry to be whole.
I wish you all a wholly holy Christmas.