The Christmas tree was set up, decorated in blue and silver. The band rocked out a slamming rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The calendar was packed full of Christmas activities – children’s pageant, live nativity, Christmas potluck.
I folded up the paper and put it in my purse.
I’m not a big fan of Christmas.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I like the holiday. I like Christmas music and twinkling lights. I like picking out at least one really good gift each year. I like candy canes and chocolate cherry cordials. There’s a lot to like at Christmas.
Christmas is the time of year when people tend to think a lot more about faith. Those who don’t regularly attend church will dust off their church clothes and attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service with their family. They’ll sing the songs about angels and newborn kings and connect with their Christian roots for an hour.
The Christmas season makes me feel the separation between what was and what is in my marriage more sharply than any other.
The first couple of Christmases that we celebrated after my husband’s deconversion, I hoped that the connection to the season that others feel would carry over for him as well. Maybe the beauty and wonder of the holiday would echo in his atheist heart and he would remember why he had been a Christian for all of those years. Perhaps the melody of a Christmas carol or the smell of candle wax or the obligatory reading of Luke 2 would resonate in him and he would believe again.
But this hasn’t happened. And with each passing Christmas, the hope that I’m supposed to feel grows a bit dimmer. I want to believe that something will change, but it feels unlikely.
In Christmases past, I would always identify with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Pregnant with hope waiting to be birthed into the world. Filled with life and joy and peace. Before the deconversion, I would have wanted to go sit next to her on the church pew and share in the excitement of the days to come.
I don’t feel that as much these days.
Now, I feel like I would want to seek out Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. But not pregnant Elizabeth.
No, I’d like to sit with the Elizabeth who, year after year, waited for a baby. Who saw others have that desire fulfilled, but who had to continue on without that gratification in her own life. Elizabeth, who may have asked what she did wrong, who may have wondered why she was denied something that so many took for granted.
I can relate to her. I can relate to that feeling of unfulfilled expectancy. To want something that is good and right and to wonder why it is being denied. I would sit with her and cry with her and wait with her.
Because right now, waiting is the best hope that I can muster.