This morning, I walked through snow up to my knees to gather the greens for Christmas decorating. I could hear the laughs and calls of my three precious girls playing in the snow with their daddy before he left for work. I found a perfect little tree for the girls to decorate in their room; being squished between some birch trees meant it didn’t have much longer to thrive so I brought it back for them.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been baking and making. We’ve done our traditional gift of baking goodies for the garbage collection men.  The music has been streaming through my new iPad. The recent snow has created a gorgeous winter wonderland. It’s all perfect.

And in the perfection, is the longest night of the year. See, I love Christmas and celebration and beauty. The decorating, the baking, and the gifts, the time together. But that isn’t the only story. This week I’ve grieved with friends for their losses, I’ve wept over the children of Syria, I’ve ached for my babies that I never really met. I’m missing my family so much that there is a pit in my stomach and a burning in my eyes. I’ve answered some very, very hard questions that my Aneliese asked about life, death, hatred, and God. I’ve found my own questions unanswered. The night is long and it is dark.

I think that I could ignore the dark, the sad, and the hurt if I chose. I’m pretty good at summoning up the willpower to do so if I choose to. I think that I could find a happy place of pretend and be only merry. Yet is that Hope? Is that Joy? Is that Love? Is that the story, the reality of Christmas? I don’t think it is.

Somehow, I don’t feel like the truth of Christmas is tarnished by the tears on my face as I tuck holly into jars and pray for Syria, my friend, myself. Honestly, I don’t think that admitting that my heart is aching lessens my joy. I don’t think my unanswered questions take away from Christ the gift of love; for me. The laughter that we share as we dance in our messy kitchen or as the girls giggle while I belt out “Christmas time’s a comin’” is only made sweeter when I recognize what a treasure those times truly are. Though it at times feels shaky, my hope is still present.

The night is long, my friends. But there is Light.  May each of you feel that hope and warmth in your own places of darkness or grief or pain. May you know it as you are merry and filled with delight. There is light.