I had a visitor yesterday…a very mobile visitor who had my living room floor scattered with toys and still found the Christmas tree and fireplace more interesting. We played peek-a-boo and patty cake. We danced and sang Christmas songs, dined on bananas and squash (she did anyway) and had a wonderful time together. I marveled in the normalcy. This little visitor’s smile can light up a room and dimple will melt your heart. I was overwhelmed as I watched her sleep to think of where she was just one year ago and I held her a little closer and hugged her a little tighter as the reality of what could have been hit me like a ton of bricks and I thanked God for miracles. My visitor, sweet Hannah, celebrated her 1st birthday this week after being born at only 26 weeks and weighing a mere 2lbs 6 oz. (Read last year’s introduction to Hannah in We Interrupt This Christmas Celebration To Bring You Back To Reality.)
What a difference a year can make…Heartache and the holidays go together about as well as a maltov cocktail. Exploding into flames as the ingredients are mixed, maltov cocktails aren’t designed to destroy on contact, only to set things ablaze. Heartache will do the same thing to a holiday…slowly, and methodically, in the same way as a fire spreads, it can consume us and all of our “merry and bright.”
One year ago, our holiday became consumed with fear and uncertainty, and love and Hannah. Over the last year there have been moments of panic, days that never ended, and weeks that bled one into the next. There were bleak predictions given by doctors and terrified parents. There were uncontrollable tears and unspoken fears. There have been blood transfusions, collapsed lungs, pneumonia, oxygen cords stretched through the house, alarm bells ringing, countless doctors appointments, sleepless nights, and prayers whispered in desperation.
But there has been one constant and certainty through it all, the love, comfort, and hope of an all-powerful God. Emmanuel, God with us….
His name will be ‘Emmanuel,’ said the angel, which means ‘God with us.’ That God with us promise, that heaven-on-earth assurance, came true in Jesus. It’s why we celebrate Christmas. This is the majesty of the miracle, God sending his Son, a baby, into our messed up, pain-fraught world, to be with us. Jesus, growing up, knowing and feeling and facing every single thing we ever have or ever will and then dying with the weight of our sin. God with us.
Jesus is the reason for the season. That’s what we spout at this time of year but what does it really mean? It means that when you are sitting beside your baby’s bed in the neonatal unit you are not alone. It means when there is a knock on the door, when you get the diagnosis, when you get “the call,” when tragedy, death, or fear come knocking, you are not alone. And it’s not just for this season. The holidays can be some of the most difficult times to embrace this though because we are expected to “leave all of our troubles behind” and in real life that just doesn’t work and we feel the most alone because we just can’t “make merry” like everyone else. Every breath, every tear, every struggle, everyday of the year you are not alone.
Emmanuel, God with us.
Sometimes His answers don’t look like our prayers and the heartache doesn’t feel like it will ever subside. Sometimes our holidays, or Tuesdays, or Saturdays, or any day will explode into flames when fueled by our heartache.
But this is a season for celebration, even in the midst of our heartache, because of the promises fulfilled on that very first Christmas when, for Mary and Joseph, things must have seemed all wrong. This was not their plan, this was not the time, this was the the place for the Messiah to be born. A stable surrounded by farm animals? Surely God would have had a grander plan for the entrance of His Son into our world. But no, He came to be God with us. God with us, as were are, in heartache and in celebration. God with us when everything goes our way and when everything falls apart. God with us to fulfill the promise of peace and hope, comfort and joy. God with us, delivered in the midst of real life, into a manager on that first Christmas.
God with us, one year ago, when a baby was born and our heartache exploded into flames. God with us today as our heartache has been replaced by baby girl giggles and we celebrate and thank God for answered prayer and miraculous life. Hannah has continued to defy the odds, predictions, and expectations set forth in a great testament to God’s goodness and power. He is bigger than anything we face and is using Hannah, this sweet baby, to teach all of us His lessons in such a beautiful way.
As we celebrate Hannah’s first birthday and look forward to celebrating The Miracle of the coming season, from our family to yours we want to say Thank You! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, your support, and most importantly your prayers! Have a blessed Christmas and may you know that whatever you are facing God is with you…