Rhonda Cagle

Excuse Me, Have You Seen My Christmas?

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm

The year my husband passed away, Jesus went missing during Christmas. Literally missing. My dad and stepmom have a lovely nativity set with a wooden baby Jesus that my little nieces just couldn’t resist. Their tiny fingers would grab for the Holy Child, despite our repeated attempts to redirect their attention. While we were busy talking, they tiptoed up to the manger and grabbed the Christ Child, hiding him away securely so he would be safe. With their mission accomplished, they ran off to play – and promptly forgot where they had stashed him.

For the next several weeks, we hunted high and low for MIA Jesus. Wisemen and shepherds, Mary and Joseph all kept up a valiant front, staring adoringly at… nothing. The angel hovered over an empty manger and animals gathered near the crèche, wondering what all the fuss was about.

The adults in our family were good sports and made jokes about the empty manger and the fact that Jesus was nowhere to be found that Christmas. But for me, reeling with the grief of losing my beloved and the overwhelming pressure to still, somehow, pull off a happy holiday for my daughter, MIA Jesus was a perfect fit. It was Christmas-ish. But it was not Christmas. The tree was trimmed, the candles were lit and everything for a holiday was in place. Except joy. And light. No matter how hard I looked, Jesus was missing. The manger was empty. And I was without a Savior.

I’ve thought a lot about that Christmas this year – mostly because it has felt the same way. I’ve gone through the motions, decorating the house and buying the presents. In between client emergencies and a recent stint in the hospital for heart issues, I’ve managed to bake a few cookies and shop for Christmas dinner. But no matter how many lights I put up, this holiday has felt dark. Joyless. Without meaning.

Life has, to put it mildly, not turned out the way I had hoped or planned. I’m building a new life with a new husband who loves me but has very different interests and life experiences than my own. His ex-wife has decided being a parent no longer works with her lifestyle so I have suddenly and unexpectedly become a fulltime parent to my 13-year-old stepson. It’s a job I loved with my daughter but had gladly retired from a few years ago when she left the nest.  My skills are rusty. I am older. And life is more complicated – and not of my own choosing.

After losing my beloved to cancer, our home to foreclosure, and working hard to rebuild some sort of a life and a new home, you would think I would be wise enough to know that winter never lasts forever. Darkness always gives way to light. You would think I would have learned that, at the very moment when I feel forever screwed and that nothing will ever be right again, hope steps in; wrapping grief in its arms and soothing my jagged, sorrowful soul.

You would think I would have learned this by now. But I haven’t. At least I haven’t learned it in my heart of hearts, where it counts.

This season has been as joyless as the Christmas my husband died. Until today. Somehow – I don’t know how – the Christmas lights are finally shining. They’ve been lit this whole time, but I’m finally able to see their light. The carols and Christmas songs are playing on the radio just as they have since Thanksgiving, but their words are finally piercing my spirit.

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, ‘til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”

This Christmas there is enough light to show the way and enough music to inspire the next step. For me, this is more than enough reason to celebrate. I am grateful.

PHG Nativity Scenes Alberto Tonatiuh Estrada Oaxaca 012

Photo: Pale Horse Galleries

My family eventually found baby Jesus, by the way. After turning my dad’s house upside down, Jesus was found on Christmas Day, hidden in one of the Bethlehem houses behind the crèche. He had been there all along. He showed up after we had given up. Right on time, as usual.

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