the thrill of hope…

the thrill of hope

—niki kirby / 12.13.21

I  love Christmas! I love everything about the Christmas season, from the music to the lights…even the cheesy movies. One Christmas in particular, though, looked a little bit different and is forever branded in my mind. Ten years ago, in early December, my sweet mom was unexpectedly diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease and subsequently a very large, malignant tumor. That year, Christmas was a daze of tears, hospital sounds, and heaviness. I distinctly remember going to check on her one day not long after her surgery, and she was lying on the couch, frail but beautiful and watching a Hallmark movie. It was this bittersweet juxtaposition of something sweet and good, meshed with something hard and sad. That was my first experience with what I believe to be a truer picture of what Christmas is all about. 

Marrying into a family that has been involved in the funeral business for generations, I have seen this to be true in other ways as well. Christmas is a particularly difficult time for people facing loss. It’s almost like the songs of “holly jolly” are mocking them. It’s like a Starbucks coffee with way too much sugar, when all you want is a simple cup of black coffee. Often, there seems to be this pressure to just “be happy” and “enjoy the season,” which further complicates things. Over time and through experience, I have learned that joy and grief are not mutually exclusive things…most often, they are on parallel tracks. And I have also come to learn that this is what Christmas, at its core, is really all about. It’s the convergence of light in a dark world. It’s the thrill of hope for a weary world to rejoice in. It’s about being seen, even when the world sends out pitch black darkness all around you. 

As I write this, December is still young, not even halfway through, and yet, already it is proving crushingly heavy. Covid diagnosis are being dispensed for loved ones, hospital visits for others, cancer diagnosis for yet another, calls to the occupational therapist for a child after believing we were past needing that, and then yesterday, the devastating news out of my hometown and beloved state of Kentucky of the tornados that ravaged hundreds of people’s homes and businesses, which claimed the lives of countless men, women, and children….it was a dark day for my precious hometown and home state, no doubt. But if I’m being honest, it’s just been a hard month in general.

When any of these things happen, there’s no glossing them over in an attempt to manufacture some sort of glittery, plastic “Americanized Christmas cheer.” But the thing is, in my opinion, that’s not the point of Christmas anyway. To be jolly is no doubt a wonderful thing. But to be held, lovingly and tenderly by a God who knows your pain, is a beautiful thing. To cling to a shred of hope like it’s your literal lifeline is a powerful thing. To fight to see one small sprout of goodness in a desolate desert of hard, I believe, releases more light into the world than all the “holly jolly” you could muster up in a year. 

That year when my mom was so sick that her vision was failing— her strength was practically gone, and she was taking more medications than she could count, let alone pronounce—she used to say that “Hope” was her favorite drug. Hope pierces the darkness. It’s like a defibrillator to our souls. We need hope right now, almost more than anything else. 

To all my friends who feel weary today from the world, please know the darkness is not too dark for the one who created you to see you. Make no mistake, friend, you are seen, and you are loved. Even if you don’t feel it. Even if you don’t believe it. 

This Christmas season, I pray that hope thrills you, and I pray it soothes your soul like a balm. 

Wishing you a season full of hope and a Merry Christmas, friend!