I am so anxious for Christmas.
It is one of my favourite days of the year, and nothing seems like it can really go wrong on Christmas.
I love Christmas as an Orthodox Christian because we have spent so long preparing for it. We have fasted and prayed, and there are so many wonderful saints commemorated during the Nativity Fast who lived in such truly Christlike ways that are tangible and inspiring to us that I feel like it makes the Christmas season all the more exciting. Our parish typically has several Liturgies each week of the Nativity Fast to celebrate these saints. I regretted being unwell and over-tired too often to make it to most of these Liturgies (and unfortunately many of them were during hours I am supposed to work). We did attend Vespers on weeknights whenever possible though.
It has yet to snow this winter, much to my surprise. The winter seemed to hit early and hard this year, and two weeks ago we hit -15F a couple of times. It’s warmed up considerably since then and the only precipitation we’ve gotten is a bit of rain yesterday. Doesn’t look like we’ll get snow before the new year either, sadly.
This is my first Christmas away from “home.” We’ll still be spending it with my parents, but this is the first year I have not lived with them for Christmas. Through college, I always came home for the 6 weeks we had off in between semesters. This year I am married and living with my husband. We are technically in a different city, but it’s very close. It’s different. I feel “homesick” a lot, which is a strange feeling when “home” is with my husband. I love him dearly, and I am seeing more and more each day since we got married almost 7 months ago just how perfectly he and I fit as a team. He has plenty of flaws–as do I!–but he so often is there for me in exactly the way I need him to be, and his selflessness and generosity bring to the surface the things in myself I need to fix (which aggravate me!), which is exactly what he should be doing. So why do I feel “homesick” just because this year is different from what I’m used to?
As excited as I am for Christmas, I have found myself growing less excited for it this year than I anticipated. Next week, I will be 28 weeks pregnant, and provided I don’t go into labour early or the baby dies in utero, that means we will only have a few weeks left with the baby. Two months ago, I certainly did not expect Christmas to be clouded by that. I expected being like my other pregnant friends: attending birthing classes, researching diapers and breastfeeding, figuring out what the essentials we needed for raising a little one in a one-bedroom apartment are, having baby showers. Instead we need to order a casket (per our spiritual father’s advice), find a cemetery plot, and grit our teeth every time someone asks or says something about our baby. Maternity clothes shopping is the worst. I have attempted to get by without maternity clothes (and been successful), but there are a few things I can’t fit into adequately anywhere else. The lady who works at the store is very chatty and asks tons of questions about what plans we have for the baby. Sometimes I feel like just telling her that our baby isn’t expected to live and we’re just enjoying the time with it for now. But I feel like that would sound too bitter and cruel.
When my parents asked what we needed so she could know what to get us as gifts for Christmas, I really couldn’t think of much, since formerly the only things we needed were baby-related. That made me feel sad all over again. I went shopping with her since she gets upset if we don’t give her detailed lists of exactly what to get. I honestly didn’t really want anything, but I didn’t want to offend her and make her think we don’t appreciate her generosity. We do. They have been so good to us, especially after learning about the problems with the baby.
I feel like the grieving has clouded Christmas for me a little, but I’m trying not to let it as best I can. It is comforting that no matter what we feel Christmas is about (gifts, families, snow, etc.), what it actually is can never be changed: it is the incarnation of Christ, the beginning of our salvation from all this pain, suffering, sadness, and death. Because of the Incarnation, the gap between sin and godliness can be traversed. And because Christ destroyed death as incarnate man, we do not have to fear death for our child.
Christmas this year is joyful-sorrow for us. It is my hope every day that I can attempt to emulate the lives of the saints who suffered great tragedies, struggles, and martyrdoms in their joyful-sorrow. It’s easy to be sorrowful and easy to feign happiness, but to actually feel the joy in realising that this present sadness is not all there is and to be always looking up for heaven and the fullness of life there is definitely a daily challenge.