Not two days ago, an EF3, 600 yard-wide tornado tore a path over 11 miles long across the north part of our county. Hundreds of houses and businesses have been leveled. Schools damaged. Property lost. Lives forever altered and lives lost.
The destruction photographs and videos I have grown so numb to seeing on the news of other places are now of my town. Those of us who call Clarksville home can’t even locate or recognize some of the “after” pictures without the ones that were taken “before.”
School is canceled through tomorrow at least, as churches, governments and non-profits rally a community of giving volunteers to begin the long and arduous process of cleaning and restoration. We all want to do something.
Social media and news outlets have been vital sources of information since before the storm system began its trek into Montgomery County. My husband and I watched the radar and the news coverage from the first alarm on our phones into the night. We prayed as a family for those in the path and I monitored my social media feed, continuing to pray for neighbors I don’t know, as the first images of the devastation began popping up.
Then the report came. Three lives lost, one a child. A child the age of my youngest child. The reality of what happened, what could have happened, what might have happened continues to hit like ocean waves closer and closer to home.
Throughout the weekend, the fact that this storm occurred in December has not been lost on anyone. Countless reporters and anchors have made “the comment” or interviewed witnesses and survivors and first responders who have all made “the comment” about how hard, how devastating, how unimaginable it is that this has happened “especially at Christmas.”
As if, it might be better or easier if it were happening at another time in the year. Let’s face it. Christmas is rarely, RARELY a tranquil, easy, “Silent Night,” kind of season for anyone living in this fallen world. The holidays are just plain hard on pretty much all of us. We know loss. We know hurt. We are confronted with the fact that things aren’t as we think that they should be.
Some of us may have “grown up” faster than others. We may have learned the “truth” about Santa before we were ready, yet we still are trying to chase a holiday movie ending for our calendar year where everyone is happy and healthy. We don’t like or want to have bad memories or hard times tied to this holiday – (or really would we choose them to happen on ANY day?) We buy into the hype and fix our expectations onto what we think this season is “supposed” to be. And, we work really hard, and spend lots of money, to try to achieve the perfect holiday.
Tornados don’t fit our narrative of a “Merry Christmas.” Neither does loss or death. Where will those 100s of families celebrate their Christmases this year? How do you celebrate in the midst of such chaos?
Especially at Christmas – we as Christians are given the opportunity to remember – and to celebrate – that there is something bigger going on than gifts, glitter and gatherings. Christmas will look very different to many people in Clarksville this year, but this is exactly, especially why we must orient our hearts around the bigger picture of what Christmas represents.
It isn’t the “goodwill toward man” or the “giving spirit” – or even “That’s why they call us the Volunteer State,” lets-help-our-brothers-and-sisters mentality. These things are all well and good, but they aren’t what Christmas is all about.
God with us. He is with us in the middle of our hardest, darkest, scariest, I-don’t-know-what-will-happen, situations and circumstances.
Christmas is bigger than all the heartfelt connotations and sappy sentiments we have attached to it. God stepped into His broken creation with the incarnation. The cosmos were literally, eternally altered with the arrival of the more perfect Adam.
Especially at Christmas – instead of picture perfect, Hallmark movie ending expectations, let’s embrace the hard parts of the holidays, giving voice to our need of Immanuel, putting our focus – not on a baby in a manger, but on the arrival of the One who gives us access to true hope and real peace. We celebrate in the midst of our brokenness and loss the arrival of the One who defeated death and makes all things new.
The tornado that ripped through Clarksville, that came so close to my home, is a jarring, humbling, reminder to me that I am in no way in control of my holiday, much less my life – that my world is literally groaning in its fallen state, – and that we are all in need of the One who brings ultimate, eternal healing and restoration for all the damage and devastation done in our lives.
God loved us so much, He has ordained things in such a way that we might seek Him out, – especially at Christmas.
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