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What’s your worst Christmas memory? I know mine for sure – it was Christmas Eve, and I was living in Columbia, MO. I was a youth pastor, and it was our annual Christmas Eve worship gathering.
As we were concluding, I looked down to see I had missed calls and a text message: mom has been in an accident.
I called my sister back to find out my mom and step-dad had been t-boned by car that jumped a median and three lanes of traffic to hit them on the driver’s side of the car. They were both in the ICU. My mom had a few broken bones. My step-dad had been driving, and they weren’t sure he’d survive the night.
I jumped in my car and hurried home to pack – I hadn’t been planning to make the 2 hr trek to their house until the next morning.
I remember going in to see my mom. She was in pain, but conscious and coherent. Because she was in the ICU, only two of us were allowed back at a time. A couple of her close friends arrived not long after I did, so I led them back. When she saw them, she hugged them tight.
And what I remember most about that night was what I saw when I was closing the door to her room – she collapsed into sobs in her friends’ arms. She had been holding herself together for her kids.
We spent Christmas day between the hospital and their house, too worried to think about the usual sorts of Christmas festivities like carols and presents. In fact, I honestly don’t remember much about Christmas at all. Not the lights, the gifts, whether I got a new ornament that year. I remember the hospital. My stepdad hovering at death’s door. My mom’s tears.
All these years later, we’re all okay. Both my parents survived and made a full recovery. We don’t even talk that often about ‘the Accident’, as we’ve come to call it.
But I always think back to that awful Christmas during this time of year. It’s a reminder for me that – no matter how well we prepare, there’s no such thing as the perfect Christmas.
And maybe that’s for the best. Maybe our quest for the perfect Christmas is a fool’s errand. Let’s explore the possibility that Christmas has never been perfect, and that when we stop trying to get that postcard perfect holiday, we can attend to the God who came into our world because we’re a mess.