Tears are not absent during the holidays. In fact, I’ve talked with enough friends and family to know that tears are likely prevalent during Christmas. There’s no doubt a lot of joy and happiness during this time— praise the Lord for the smiles and laughter— but there may also be sadness. And praise the Lord for tears. Tears over the loss of what used to be; an ache from the longing of a child absent in the family circle; grief from the loss of a father or mother who was here last Christmas but is gone today; or an illness that seems to have taken precedence over every important thing in life.

And then there are the everyday tears that don’t seem to stay away just because it’s Christmas. Tears were shed on the way home from church last Christmas Eve because my youngest was reprimanded for kicking her older sister.  Tears.  And lots of them.  Because “Everyone in the entire world thinks I’m annoying. Every single person in this entire earth!” I’m glad she’s not over-dramatic.

And then there were tears while watching The Nativity as a family the night before Christmas. The tears were not due to the amazing reality of the incarnation. No. The tears were attributed to a scene in the movie that displayed the killing of a cow.  “Why would they kill a cow, Dad?  Why a cow?  What did the cow do to them?” And so we pressed pause to explain Old Testament animal sacrifice to our seven year-old.  And then she completely understood. Not at all.

But for some reason, in the midst of the longing and sadness, there is a sense in which swallowing the tears seems to be the right thing to do at Christmas time.  It’s Christmas, for heaven’s sake. We should be happy with abundant smiles, right? Bottle up the tears and let them flow any other day…just not on Christmas.

But we live in a broken world. And I’m incredibly grateful that we can celebrate the beauty of the incarnation through the tears. I’m grateful that Jesus came into this world so that He can understand and identify with our longing and pain. I’m thankful that Jesus showed us His own tears and that His birth was announced not to the kings of the earth, but to humble shepherds.  And I’m thankful that the birth of our Savior took place in a stable and not a palace.  I’m sure it smelled, and I’m quite certain it was not all that silent.  His bed wasn’t perfectly prepared ahead of time, but instead he lay in a trough.  It’s the smelly, noisy, not tidied-up kind of place that I can relate with.  Jesus made himself man for you and for me.

All this is what we see through the tears.

I sat in front of my Christmas tree last Christmas and let the tears flow. I missed my dad and mom, who have both passed away. I miss the days when family members from all over would meet together and spend hours eating, opening presents, and celebrating our Savior’s birth. I miss the meals my mom would cook and the baths my kids would take at their Grandma’s house, and I even miss the days when I would rebuke my mom for giving my kids ten too many M&M’s.

But I see much through the tears. I look to the day when we will actually see the King of Kings, and not through unclear and hazy eyes because there will no longer be crying, a promise deserving of our Hallelujahs.  And through the tears I see Christmas.  I see my Savior and the splendor of the incarnation.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

The implications of Jesus taking on humanity are as deeply felt as the tears on my face. This is grace. This is joy unspeakable. This is the true meaning of Christmas.

There will be joy on Christmas morning, and I’m sure there will be a lot of happy munchkins tearing through the packages. But for some, there will be tears. There’s no need to bottle them just because it’s Christmas. Instead, let’s see Christmas through the tears; it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

head-shotKatie is wife to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in Kirkwood, MO, and together they have three children, Ella, J-Rod, and Lily.  A former writing teacher, Katie now spends her time writing, teaching piano, and leading women’s Bible studies.  She serves on the board of Covenant College, where she graduated with a BA in English Education, and enjoys serving in her church’s music and women’s ministry.  For more information, as well as additional blog entries, you can visit her website at www.katiepolski.com