Over this past weekend, I put Christmas away for another year and I must say I was more than ready to do that. I share this with you because, this year, Christmas has been very hard for me. You see my 98-year-old mother passed away at the end of October and so this was my first Christmas without her loving presence. I found that all the traditions I celebrated with family were chock full of so many memories of her and Christmas’ past. I found in this time of remembering, that although there was joy, there was also much grief.
Yes, I was more than ready to put Christmas back into the boxes and place these boxes on the shelves for another year.
What proved to be the most difficult was taking down the Christmas tree. I don’t know about you, but for me every ornament comes with a story – a memory. I found there were many times when I just had to stop, breathe, remember, and be grateful for those rich memories. This was especially true when it came to packing up my angel tree topper.
We found this angel tree topper when we were cleaning out the home of my Granny and Grandpa Fifield in order to get the house ready to sell after they both died. My mother discovered her in an old cardboard gift box, sitting on a dusty shelf, down in the basement. There she was, nestled in the stained tissue paper. Turns out that this angel was the tree topper that had graced my mother’s Christmas tree when she was growing up.
She asked me “Do you want her for your Christmas tree?”
Now this angel tree topper was decidedly past her prime. At one point, I’m sure she had been beautiful, but now she was more than a little dingy. The angel’s shimmering body was stained and her wings were badly bent. But for some reason I felt drawn to her. Maybe it was because of her simplicity and beauty. Whatever the reason, I wrapped her up carefully and brought her back home with me.
It wasn’t until I unwrapped her for that next Christmas, that I discovered the special gift she held. You see, to look closely at her serene face is to see a rhinestone sewn beneath each eye. My angel has jeweled tears that seemed to take in and reflect the bright colors of the season.
Gazing at her in my hands, I understood the message this angel held for me.
Her jeweled tears tell me that there is always beauty to be found in the brokenness that life offers. In her gaze, is the understanding that in loving another, there will be times we will be hurt; in caring deeply, there will be times we will feel despair; and in the memories, there will be times we will ache with what we have lost. Her jeweled tears speak of that tension found between beauty and brokenness. They speak of what it means to embrace our total humanity – the good, the hard, and the painful.
More than anything, this is the message I am carrying in this time of grief I am feeling. And frankly, isn’t this part of what the Christmas story is all about. Jesus entered the world amidst the sadness and the joy; the disappointments and the hope; the shattered dreams and the rich possibilities of Mary and Joseph. He entered a world rich with jeweled tears.
I believe those jeweled tears tell us that in the grief, in the brokenness, and in the struggles, there will always be some beauty to be found – maybe a lot, maybe just a sliver. For me, those tears tell me that God’s presence is with me in the grief I am feeling in missing my mom. God is with me, walking me back into the hope.
As I move into this new year, this is the understanding that I carry.