Many of you have asked for a digital copy of my Christmas letter. I hope He continues to bring you hope and healing as you sing a new song in 2017.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what to write in my Christmas newsletter. I even went so far as to write a very lengthy draft of all the fun and delightful things that Jude and I did with our family and friends. I could have sent it and it would have been mostly true. We did get to do some wonderful things together this year with the people we love. I traveled to over 20 U.S. States and 8 countries and got a promotion at work. Jude started kindergarten and has been growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men. But, it would have read just like those Facebook and Instagram posts that we all can’t stand: “Look at my beautiful and flawless life. Look at my perfect children, my global travels, and my successful career. Look at how happy everyone is! And did I mention I lost 10 lbs and got a Tesla?” It’s not that we can’t stand the fact that people are happy; it’s the fact that we all know it’s not the whole story.
A letter like that would have only represented part of the story for the entire year, because the whole picture is very different and may be familiar to many of you. 2016 has been a really difficult year. There has been a lot of pain, individually and collectively. Many of our relationships have changed. We’ve had dear friends who were like family move away. We’ve had people start relationships, get married and shift out of our daily life. We’ve had challenges with transitioning from pre-school to kindergarten. Our church lost its pastor and in the process, we lost some of our closest friends. We’ve seen more black people die, more mass shootings, and a host of Syrian refugees washed up on the shore as they fled their homes. We wrestled through a disgusting election. We’ve seen dreams dashed and innocence lost. Candles have been lit. Prayers have been prayed. And many tears have fallen.
And instead of days filled with perfect, smiling faces, which has become our virtual reality, 2016 was actually me getting up at 5:30 a.m. every day to read the Word, pray, and lean into the comfort of the Father. It was not shrinking back from disappointment and suffering. It was pressing into unfulfilled longing, believing it was birthed in heaven, and clinging to hope, even when deferred. It was believing that He does act on our behalf, that sorrow and sighing will flee away, that He is good (but never safe) and that He is near to the brokenhearted. It was going deep with my community, letting them carry my burdens, and in return, helping them carry theirs. It was choosing forgiveness, over and over, even when the person didn’t ask. It was loving and not being loved in return. It was singing songs of praise and thanksgiving with tears running down my face. It was the bloody part of the gospel, the painful part between Friday and Sunday, where Peter and John and Mary are counting down the hours until they can run to the tomb. It was believing that what He said is true. That He came once and will come again. And this is Christmas. This is advent: All of creation groaning, being stretched wider and wider, full of longing for this One who is our peace.
My prayer is that we will enter 2017 with a new song on our lips and hope in our hearts.