Have you ever been so angry you thought you would literally explode? That’s how you could describe my disposition on Christmas Eve, 1993. I was livid! Enraged! Incensed! My spouse who had promised to love and cherish me ’til death do we part was divorcing me. My seething anger was directed at him, no question, and other people who were responsible for this breakdown. But, I was also very angry with God. How could He have allowed this to happen? Somehow, I had this ridiculous idea that because I was a “good” Catholic, I should be immune from something as disgraceful as divorce. Why didn’t He save our marriage? Where was God when I needed Him most? That was the worst Christmas I had ever experienced.
The years passed, and as that anger settled down a bit, loneliness began creeping in and taking over. Attending Christmas Mass was almost unbearable because, as most divorced Catholics experience, I was alone in the midst of happy families. It seemed that at every turn there was a reminder of what I had lost, so celebrating just wasn’t something I felt like doing. But one Christmas in particular, I finally was sick and tired of being sick and tired… I didn’t want Christmas to be a depressing pity party and desperately wanted to make this year different. So I thought of ways I could mix it up, you know, stop doing the same thing and expecting different results? I didn’t realize I would receive a miracle…
I spent a lot of time that Advent season reflecting on the Holy Family, trying to glean something new from the story I had heard for so many years of my life. I tried to imagine being present in this story, and seeing the scene exactly as it played out… I imagined Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem and were shut out in a cold stable to deliver their newborn child. I imagined 15-year-old Mary who was nine months pregnant and probably more uncomfortable than she’d ever been in her life, riding a donkey in the middle of the night. I was thoroughly impressed by her sacrifice. I observed the obedience of Joseph who had nearly divorced his pregnant wife and still didn’t quite understand why things were happening to him the way they were, but trusted and obeyed God. His simplicity deeply affected me.
Then, I contemplated Christ as a newborn in the manger. I pictured Baby Jesus and looked at His little hands, knowing they would be pierced and torn one day… for me. I looked at His little newborn body and thought of the sword that would one day pierce His side, showering blood and water for my salvation. During this time of reflection, God’s grace was somehow softening my hardened and bitter heart, replacing the anger I felt toward my ex-spouse with a tiny seed of forgiveness. As that seed began to sprout and take root, it was almost like having scales fall off my eyes and experiencing a whole new existence. That Christmas during Mass as I received Jesus in Holy Communion, my heart was filled with His love. It didn’t change my circumstances, but it changed me. Despite all I had been through, I began to experience peace in my heart and hope for good things in my future. It was my little Christmas miracle and it was quite possibly the best gift I’ve ever received.
This Christmas might be a very difficult one for you and I am truly sorry if it is. But, despite what’s happened, could there be a Christmas miracle waiting for you, too? I believe there is if you are willing to let God inside your heart. Please know that I am praying for you, in hopes that you will let go of any bitterness and anger you may be harboring to make room for the peace that Christ’s birth brings. Just like the little children whom Christ tells us we must be like to go to heaven… believe, forgive, hope.