Why It’s Okay For the Holidays to Start Feeling Dark

It keeps lighting me, what a friend tells me in the weeks before Advent.

How she’s been sitting with all this trauma everywhere.

“I’ve pulled out all this trauma and am looking it in the face — and it’s like a million frayed wires.”

A little flame of a boy whose name means “God is good” — Toby, he’s laying in a hospital bed with a still open chest and traumatized lungs after open heart surgery. We join the global tribe who writes Toby on our hands, a shattered heart plea to God who carves us into His own hands.

I’ve begun meeting with a counsellor who leans forward so I can read these charts of hers about response mechanisms to trauma and she tells me it’s going to get better and I’m mustering up a handful of hope to believe.

In the middle of the same week, I hold our little girl’s squeezing hand as we walk through the city pediatric hospital of wide-eyed sick kids, to sit with her cardiologist, who asks us to pick an actual day on the calendar for surgery to get their hands on her one beating little broken heart — and now I squeeze her hand back the tightest.

The Most Wonderful Christmas Tradition: 24 hole Wooden Advent wreath with engraved Mary silhouette from JoyWares




And then in the corner of an old stone church at prayer gathering, we try to smooth out all this tangled knot of trauma at the foot of the Tree. The foot of a tree where a pummelled Man hung arms outstretched, stark naked, bare back pressed into bark, to take on all the brutal trauma that ever’s been.

At the end of our farm table in front of the warming hearth, we string up this mess of strung wires, light this Christmas tree, and we’re kinda the fools who’ve gone ahead and set out a tree in every room, because I’m of the thinking that this is the season to behold what matters, and be held by the One Who matters most.

Our littlest girl, when she stretches by to the tree to hang more of those ornaments that tell the Greatest Story ever told, I can see it right there, that raised scar from the previous open heart surgeries, right there down the middle of her chest. What I can’t see is the hidden scars of her adoption into our family half a world and a whole ocean away from where she was born.

As her little fingers touch the tips of tree limbs of, touches the beads of glowing the lights wrapping tree, the room itself kinda lights and the darkness I feel kinda cracks — and a whole world of Christmas trees testify:

We are all the traumatized and wounded and cut down. We are all the weary and the limping and the stumped ones, our hope kinda hacked up and axed down.



But every Christmas tree testifieswe are all ones grafted in, grafted into His line and lineage and love, adopted and grafted into a family tree, grafted into the grand Story of the Tree that knows the axing down and yet resurrects.

This is us. In a season of trees and trauma, her and I sit at the foot of a Christmas Tree, the wounded and grafted together ones, grafted into His Family Tree and I see:

Every Christmas Tree offers us the form and shape of our lives — cruciform. Cross-formed, love and limbs and life, outstretched to the world.

On the brink of Advent, and in the midst of a world of trauma, sure, it’s true, I may want to echo with Him Who hung on the Tree: Why in the name of all of us have You forsaken us?

Where in the world is God? Is God blind and deaf and dumb to our trauma and all this pain and loss?

And through the dark of Advent, there is hope that whispers: God is here; He is hidden in our hurt. God’s hidden in our grief. The Trinity enfolds all trauma into their encircling love. God is our Father hidden in our failure, like the Cross appeared to be a failure — before the Rising appeared.

The darkness of now may appear like failure — but Advent waits for His appearing.

The people of the Cross always live in only Advent — always preparing for the Coming of Christ.

She reaches again for my hand and I take her palm and open, reaching vulnerability, and I can even feel how this is what is true, especially now:

All the apparent failures are failing at failing — because our Father is relentlessly working every failure into good, and His Son is coming to rip back all the dark. We check the bulbs on all the wires, light all the cut and grafted trees, and believe:

Christmas is cheapened when it’s about fast-forwarding to the Light — instead of being willing to sit in the depths of the darkness so that we fully feel the blazing brightness of the Coming Light.

When we are willing to watch and wait in the darkness until the Light comes — we practice being willing to sit with brokenness until resurrection comes.

This raises and resurrects something in me and it feels like hope, even now.


The Most Wonderful Christmas Tradition: 24 hole Wooden Advent wreath with engraved Mary silhouette from JoyWares




“You think it’s beautiful, Mama?” She cups my face in her little hands.

“You like the Tree and all the little lights?” And I nod and fight back this watery blurring.

Because Christmas is about how Jesus came down, shut out the darkness by moving into our space, the babe of heaven, the Son of God, moving right in front of the darkness — and eclipsing all the night with His Light.

Her and I can just do this:

Advent  fearlessly faces the deepest dark — because only then are our faces urned and waiting to feel the first warm rays of the coming, glorious light.

No matter how we feel the depth of the darkness — we have a God whose devotion to us is deeper.

And because all things are possible with God — we can have hope in all things.

When my friend turned to me and said: “I’ve pulled out all this trauma — and it’s like a million frayed wires” — I leaned forward right there by our Christmas tree, and I felt the ache of words first spread across my chest, before they found their way into the world:

“In the midst of the trauma, I just think —

If you still at at the foot of the Cross — Christ untangles all those frayed, crossed wires… and wires all things to bring light.”


Epiphany upon epiphanies.

Advent promises:

Christ’s rewiring all the world — watch for the coming Light.

Advent promises: All the wounded and grafted ones can take their places around all the grafted trees, that take their stands to watch and wait through all the aching dark — for the Light Bringer to gloriously rewire all things.

And I watch how one Little One hangs ornaments, how she keeps gazing up, and we all front row seats, to sit  right here now:

Eyes ablaze in the light of the Tree makes all the weary hearts burn with hope.


This year, let His wonder to awaken you again, captivate you, capture your heart!

More Of Jesus Only and have a STRESS-FREE, WONDER-FULL Christmas. 

This is an heirloom, a Christmas tradition, a wonder for the child in all of us! 

Pick up the Pop-Up Advent book, “The Wonder of The Greatest Gift”
with a child’s very own 14″ pop-up tree,
25 Bible-inspired ornaments hiding behind 25 Advent doors,
a new family read-aloud of 25 Advent devotionals,
and a star for the top of the tree! 

Gather this year with all 3? The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and The Wonder of the Greatest Gift and don’t miss out on Jesus this year & the The Greatest Christmas. 




(AND OH! You should come!

Live in St. Louis? St. Paul, MO? New Berlin, WI? Palos Heights, IL?

Come to the best way to start off this Christmas season?

I want to meet you! 

And Christy Nockels (!) will be in the building — leading us into the very heart of the season.

Come see us both at Night of Hope Tour: A Family Christmas!