Emily Watts | Dec 13, 2017
My feelings about Christmas pretty much parallel my feelings about life: I mostly love it but it stresses me out sometimes. This is especially true this year, as we’re dealing with a challenge we never imagined facing with our youngest grandchild, Malcolm. More on that in a moment.
I want first to acknowledge that Christmas is always a juggling act, even in the best of times. There are so many things that would be wonderful to do, and no possible way to do them all. I figured out a few years ago (and if you know how old I am, you know it took me years to come to this realization) that it was all right for me to consult my own wants, needs, and energy level and to adjust my Christmastime expectations accordingly. I have learned that I get to choose every single year how I’m going to observe Christmas this time.
This is simpler in theory than it is in practice. For example, the year I stopped doing homemade neighbor gifts nearly killed me emotionally. I was a new Relief Society president, and eight months pregnant, and I just couldn’t pull it off. And guess what? It. Didn’t. Matter. Not really. People didn’t seem offended. If they thought less of me, they masked it well. I missed the fun and creativity of making treats, but the tradeoff was a lowered stress level and the ability to focus on other activities. And I discovered that the point of sharing with neighbors was to let people know we were thinking about them, not to demonstrate my homemaking prowess.
Christmas this time is a little different in all ways because of Malcolm.
The third of three sweet grand babies who joined our family in 2017, he was born with a rare genetic disorder that manifests itself in a mitochondrial deficiency. The mitochondria are like the batteries that power our cells, and when they don’t work properly, the cells can’t get enough energy. Malcolm can’t process his food well, so he has to be on a continuous, very slow feeding cycle through a tube that goes down through his nose into his stomach. Eventually (probably before his first birthday, but no one really knows) his organs will be unable to carry the increased load, and he’ll be leaving us.
You’d think this would make Christmas sad, but oddly, it doesn’t. It makes it deeper, richer. It adds layers of meaning to everything about the holiday. I put up nativities all over the house, and in every one, I spent a little more time holding the figure of baby Jesus and feeling so, so astounded and grateful and relieved that He came.
Truly, “the hopes and fears of all the years” come together in the person of Jesus Christ, and because of the hopes, the fears are diminished.
“Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die.” It’s true. I feel it every year, but at Christmas this time I feel it right down deep in my heart in ways I’ve never experienced it before. I think maybe the Spirit knows that I have to know it, and has opened my eyes to that witness being borne all around me.
Because of Mary’s baby boy, we’ll have our baby boy again. It’s as simple—and as beautiful—as that.
We’ll have a nativity play with the grandchildren at our house this year, and Malcolm will portray baby Jesus. It seems right, somehow, since he’s probably going to be the first one among us to see Him again. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trusting the Lord to be with us every step of the way as we sing and pray: