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Yesterday was the last day of school. Little Guy headed out the door in his pajamas, armed with a gift for a new student. His class was holding a “Secret Santa” exchange that afternoon. We’d spent time discussing and choosing a meaningful gift for not only a newcomer to the class, but a newcomer to the country – red “Canada” mittens.

When Little Guy returned from school, the car was packed and I was ready to hit the highway. We were both so excited to start our Christmas holiday. But when I asked Little Guy who was his “Secret Santa” and what did he receive as a gift, he simply smiled and said “nothing”.

“What do you mean ‘nothing’?” I asked.

“It means nothing,” he said, looking at me like “duh”. “But I’m ok with it!” Then he went on excitedly talking about how much his new friend liked his red mittens!

I was still stunned, my heart sinking further in my chest, picturing my little boy sitting at an empty desk, holding back tears, while everyone opened gifts around him.

“So what did you do while the others were opening gifts? Where was your teacher?”

“I was watching my friends; it was fun!”

“Oh sweetie…are you ok?”

Little Guy rolled his eyes. “I’m fine. I had fun!”

A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you. – Joyce Meyer

He really did seem fine. I, on the other hand, was not fine. I spent the whole car ride flipping from heartbreak to anger.

***

I have found as this season progressed, experiencing a whole myriad of emotions in the midst of all shopping, baking, wrapping, packing…all the necessary (but also unnecessary) holiday preparations. And I allowed them to consume me this year, not wanting or even fearing, slowing down long enough to feel the depth of those emotions. Memories of Christmases past and the empty place settings at the dining room table. Thoughts of empty places at many dining room tables this year as a result of death and disease, the baseness of humans inflicting atrocities on one another. Such a broken and fallen world.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, overwhelmed by the despair and brokenness of his world during the American Civil War, penned a simple poem on Christmas Day, 1864: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said.
For hate is strong and mocks the song – of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Longfellow chose not to remain in despair, but instead to turn his heart and his ear…

Then rang the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men.
Then ringing singing on its way. The world revolved from night to day.
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime – of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

So this Christmas, before the family festivities begin, I am taking a moment to say a prayer that God’s grace will pour into lives, and over our communities and our world.

And while I pray, my ears are straining for the bells.

Merry Christmas!

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