It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. 

Under normal circumstances, I would blare Andy Williams’ cheerful ballad on my car stereo. But this year, I just turned it off. 

It had not been the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, when I got back in my car after shopping and heard Mariah Carey’s Christmas-song-that-shall-not-be-named, I nearly took a hammer from my trunk to bash in my stereo. But I thought better of it when I saw a police car and realized getting arrested wasn’t going to help make the season bright. 

I walked into my father’s home one morning in early December and my eyes were drawn to his face – which showed the signs of a stroke. After the paramedics arrived, they found his blood pressure was sky-high, so it was off to the hospital for tests. So many tests. 

At 90, my father is a four-time heart attack survivor. He has lived a long life, and we are thankful for that. According to him, he’s not looking to make it to 100, but he is looking to still do exactly what he wants to do, a fact which makes his daughter sigh heavily. 

Even mild strokes are not known to enhance cognitive function, so I explained why the hospital was discharging him to a rehabilitation facility about as many times as I blink in a day. It was an adventure. 

On a positive note, let me sing the praises of Encompass Health Lakeshore. The nurses were phenomenal, the doctors were so helpful in answering questions, and the therapists worked wonders. 

God was so gracious to us in a multitude of ways. Yet during this season when my kids were taking finals, I was distracted and unable to help them. I was talking to doctors or calming Dad down in an unfamiliar place. I know that’s what I needed to do – but my kids are teens, time is fleeting, and it was hard seeing my husband carry the load for me during the busiest month of the year. 

To say this season has been an emotional one would be an understatement. It’s devastating to watch someone you love in the sunset of their life. Your mind doesn’t want to grasp that they’re living in their last chapter, but your eyes force you to acknowledge the truth. 

But I recognize that this season of difficulty for my father has enabled me to look past the parties, food, songs, and decorations to dwell more on the true meaning of Christmas. 

For Christians, Christmas is about the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. He is the great hope of our lives. And despite missing some of the normal fun and frivolity of Christmas this year, the sermon at our church on Christmas Eve captured my attention more than usual due to the difficulties of the past few weeks, as did the Christmas letter of my good friend Jill. She always writes the most poignant Christmas letters and each year I look forward to getting hers. Her details always differ, but the theme is always the same: Emmanuel, God with us. 

So, although I tuned out Andy Williams’ classic this year, an old Amy Grant song resonated with me in a fresh way: 

"All of us travelers
Through a given time
Who can know what tomorrow holds
But over the horizon
Surely you and I will find
Emmanuel, God with us
Emmanuel, God with us
The Son of Israel" 

Emmanuel is with us. He is with us at the hospital, the rehab center, and the new assisted living apartment. He is with us at every age and stage. He is with us during the plentiful and the painful. His presence is what makes the different seasons of life bearable if we lean into Him. He goes before us in the coming year and will faithfully answer when we cry out to Him for help.

Kristin Landers is a substitute teacher and freelance writer. Landers’ previous work includes serving as Communications Director for the Alabama Policy Institute and working for Citizens Against a Legalized Lottery (CALL) to defeat legalized gambling in the state of Alabama.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].

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