If I were asked to pick a single image that captures my heart concerning Christmas, I would pick a scene from one of my earliest holidays—you know, something that really set the tone for how I’ve held Christmas throughout my life.
I was one, so the memories here are vivid and in no way embellish my parents’ account of the story. I am sure this is how it all actually happened.
Living in Maryland, I was just old enough to walk, and our family of three was just poor enough to prefer blankets and sweatshirts to adequate heating. That Christmas saw the Johnsons’ first, and only, hand sawn tree, chosen by Mark Phillip Johnson himself at an unassuming tree farm in rural Pennsylvania—where Quakers and Douglas firs grow strong and tall and proud. “Any tree is $25!” the tree farmers said.
“Any tree?” confirmed Mark.
“Any tree!” they nodded jovially.
Naturally, he found the biggest ass tree you can imagine, took that sucker down and strapped it to the roof of the Johnson ’85 white Honda civic.
“I think…” started Tracy.
“That it’s fantastic!” finished Mark.
“Uh-huh. Yep.” nodded Tracy. Her smirk was decorous, barely visible at the corner of her lips.
No additional commentary was needed.
Tracy’s true thoughts would peal with her laughter upon Mark situating the old Douglas in the living room and slicing through the netting to have it violently unfurl, consuming half the space and at least one couch in the process.
It was perfect.
We resituated the furniture, draped the tree in lights and decked it with ornaments.
Then later that night, I toddled up to the branches all-aglow, and I found myself captivated. The twinkly lights and all that Christmas magic—I couldn’t get enough of it. So I grabbed on tight and pulled the whole thing down on top of myself.
I would pay money to have that on home video.That’s totally me at Christmas: More, Sweet Jesus, more.
I think the first time I felt disconnected from the wonder of that little girl was in college. I had been so depressed that semester, heart battered a bit by feeling lost—who was I? What on earth was I made to do in this world?
Returning home at holiday break, I was bothered by how much I couldn’t “feel” Christmas inside of me. I was unenthused and detached, and I couldn’t lay hold of what I was watching happen for other people.
Had I lost Christmas forever?
I wonder if we have all asked that question.
In the years since, I’ve found that some Christmases feel bright and some feel battered. And here is what I have come to believe about that: it all belongs. Whatever Christmas you are celebrating or enduring this year, it fits and you are welcome.
Because Christmas is about longing. It always has been. Staying alive to longing doesn’t make your heart grow bigger or surer; it makes your heart grow deeper. And in order for a heart to grow deeper, it has to break.
So this year, your heart might be breaking or broken. Your heart might be feeling it’s way around a new and deeper hole, and you might be afraid you’ll never crawl out. Or, your heart might be filling itself with some new beauties, discovering it has room to feel things it never could have imagined before. Better still, your heart might be in the midst of Christmas wonder—bursting with the joy and goodness—sure that nothing on earth could be more incredible than this season. Christmas has found me in each of these spaces; it will find you in your space as well.
More, Jesus, more means we surrender to the story. We don’t have to make Christmas something it’s not; we don’t have to be ashamed of where we are; we get to live each Christmas as it is.
Whether this is a year to connect with miraculous birth or this is a year to ache with advent, I promise this is a year to taste the divine’s fierce love. And my prayer for you is that wherever you are, you reach out for a little bit of God’s wonder. Grab hold of it tight. Pull it down on top of you if you like. Because God’s goodness and love are at work in your story. He’s coming, I promise.
Keep your eyes peeled. Keep your hands open.
And, have a Merry Christmas, dear heart.
John 1:4-5 “In him was light, and that light was the life of all men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.”
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 27 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.
Very Xmas spirit post. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading, Tink! And I hope you have a Merry Christmas.
This was one of my favorite posts….ever! Thank you for writing it. I’m going to copy it off and keep it. You are an amazing writer with a deep, deep heart. Please keep writing!! I am a fan.
Thank you, Barbara–for reading and for your very kind words. It’s a delight to share here and I’m grateful you are part of the community. Merry Christmas!
I agree with Barbara. This was so very timely. Details too dear to write about my day today. But…this was brilliant and I will save this because….you are so right, sometimes Christmas is horrible. Thank you Katy! Stunning writing. It is good to let people be unhappy if that is what needs to be. Otherwise, we are “clanging bell.”
Thank you, Becky. I am so sorry your day has held things that leave you tender and raw. And you bring goodness to this holiday exactly as you are and whatever you are feeling. Sending my love across the country. Merry Christmas, friend.
Yes. I absolutely loved all of this.
Thank you, B. 🙂 It was a late night inspiration, and I ran with it. Love you, and Merry Christmas!
Perfect!! Love your last paragraph, and then your finish : ” Keep your eyes peeled. Keep your hands open!” Merry Christmas dearest Katy!
Thank you, My Patty. I love having you read me here, and all of your lovely words of encouragement. Merry Christmas!
Yes dear heart. The longing.
I know you feel me Joanna. Thank you for reading. Hope you are enjoying your holiday and your family. Sending love.
So, so good Katy. I often find myself in the and/both of Christmas. The ache and the celebration. I love that Christmas, that Jesus, can encompass it all. I love the invitation to “pull it down on top of me.” It’s definitely the year to do that.
Dear Jenn, thank you. I hope that Christmas joy felt palpable at your house yesterday and that sweetness lingers throughout this week. Love you!
God used you have in a big way for me tonight! Thank you so much for writing with such honesty and openness, for encouraging it is okay to be discouraged! And yet, not every Christmas will be this way! But regardless to remember to ask God for more!
Dear Ann, I am so glad the post hit you where you needed it, and I hope you had a very Merry Christmas.
I will always remember that Christmas and your tender, young joy….and the tree on top of you. Your heart is certainly growing deeper and deeper, and while I hate that it must be broken to do so and I am thankful for the gifts you are pouring out from theat depth.
Thank you, Mom. 🙂 Glad you’ve been here to live the story with me.
The image of the beautifully lit and magically decorated Christmas tree falling on top of you is so poetic. I think it captures beautifully the struggle so many of us have with Christmas–wanting to engage with the beauty and mystery and wonder, yet also feeling engulfed and tackled by the demands and expectations placed on us by life and the holidays. I have found myself fluctuating between joy and hatred of this time of year. There are moments of wonder, and moments of intense stress, loving the extravagance yet hating the overstimulation. Christmas as an adult has for sure meant different things to me than what it represented as a child. Thanks for keeping it real and capturing this tension so well. Hope this Christmas has some tastes of childlike wonder for you and for me this year. xoxo
Thought of you throughout the day yesterday. Thanks for your lovely words. Like the rest of the season, the day felt mixed exactly like you described. And I loved seeing the slow mo video of your family popping champagne yesterday morning. Embrace that joy! 😉 Hope your family finds rest and goodness in the lingering in between of this week.