I wouldn't say that was our best Christmas ever, but it was a memorable one, and we got through it together.
This year, while I gather with my kids and my new husband, and two sons-in-law, and four amazing grandsons around our majestic, fragrant, color-coordinated fir, I hope I can hang on to what I learned that year when I couldn't put up a tree.
First, I cannot save Christmas. I can't ruin it either, and I can't make it happen. I don't have that power. It comes no matter what I do. It doesn't depend on me.
I also learned that year that Christmas isn't a magic antidote for trouble. Carols and twinkly lights don't erase the pain of a fractured family or a foreclosure or a diagnosis or a pink slip, and we set ourselves up for discouragement if we expect that. And yet Christmas still comes, no matter what is going on with us. Emmanuel is still God with Us, right in the middle of all our pain.
And finally, I learned to make room in my heart for surprise, because we just can't predict how the Christ child will appear in our lives. I never expected my Christmas highlight to be a scruffy little children's tree in an otherwise depressing house. Jesus' people never expected a messiah in a manger. Christmas always comes, but not always the way we thought it would—which means our most important Christmas task may be to watch and wait for Christ to come. Again. And for the miracle of Christmas to happen—no matter what.