As I walked next to my son with tears streaming down my cheeks, I said the words out loud that had been echoing in my head, “I hate Santa!” It was dark outside and we were walking through my neighborhood to get home. I was wearing a long nightgown, my snow boots, and my dressy pea coat. I was a sight to be seen and lucky for me, it was dark, so my neighbors could not see what I looked like. Are you confused right now? Why would I just tell my son that I hate Santa while walking outside, dressed like a crazy woman?

As my husband and I were having a heated discussion in our bedroom about how I spent too much money on Christmas presents, my son knocked on our door and said it was an emergency. He said that one of the homes in our neighborhood was on fire. We could hear the sirens and the view from our kitchen window revealed a bright orange sky. I immediately found my coat and boots and said I had to go. My son asked if he could come with me and my husband asked what I was going to do. I yelled back, “I don’t know…pray from them.”

I was upset and crying. My adrenaline was pumping as I sprinted alongside my son, in hopes of bringing some type of peace in the midst of tragedy. All the buried emotions from our own house fire were surfacing and I felt as if I was about to explode. We had been sprinting for almost half a mile and my lungs and thighs were burning. We rounded a corner in the direction of the sirens and a woman walking past us said, “Santa will come around to the other side of the circle.” At that moment a light bulb went on in my head. In our town, the local fire department has one of their firemen dress up as Santa and ride through all the neighborhoods on one of their trucks. Moms, dads, children, and grandparents come out of their homes, as Santa waves and firefighters throw candy canes to onlookers.

For most people in our town, this is a treasured tradition that is welcomed every year. Not for me! For some reason, I seem to forget that they do this every year. When the sirens and lights arrive in my neighborhood to bring good cheer, I revisit that nightmare that happened on a spring evening in 2009. The night I lost everything I owned. The night I almost lost my children.

Maybe you struggle with post-traumatic stress or maybe you are struggling this Christmas season due to some other loss. The message of this season is hope. May the hope of God that fills me, even when I struggle with my past, also fill you with hope and peace. We aren’t made to carry our burdens alone. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jesus came to the world as a gift for everyone. He is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Let his hope dwell in you and bring you peace.

PS. I don’t really hate Santa. It’s just how I felt that night.

photo credit: Lester Public Library via photopin cc