Christmas Miracle

When an angel
snapped the old thin threads of speech
with an untimely birth announcement,
slit the seemly cloth of an even more blessed
event with shears of miracle…
– Luci Shaw, “…for who can endure the day of his coming,”
from her advent poetry book Accompanied by Angels

star of bethlehem

I admit that I am part of the problem. If there’s a sappy Christmas movie on network TV, I’m going to be watching it. I have a startlingly large collection of them sitting on the shelf in the basement, and at this time of year, under the glowing Christmas tree, my body craves half-truths about “Christmas miracles” like it craves sweets.

I want to watch as towns band together to decorate and unlikely strangers fall in love. I want some cranky shmuck to discover the spirit of Christmas, this vague ethereal thing that somehow transforms him into his best self. I want candles and romance and mistletoe. I want the boy and the girl to kiss at the end, for that kiss to set the whole world right again.

I’ll turn a blind eye to bad plots and worse dialogue as long as there’s a happy ending. A work-obsessed PR agent forced to confront her past, present and future by the ghost of a party girl client? Yes please. Melissa Joan Hart as a desperate waitress who kidnaps Mario Lopez and brings him to her family Christmas? Um, why not?

It is December. I am eating sugar cookies for breakfast and watching all the movies. The Christmas music loops on the radio and I am absently singing along, wanting so much to believe that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. I want the world strung with lights, wrapped in cellophane, hazy with Magic Snow and so many little Christmas miracles.


This year, it’s dark and heavy, Christmas sunk-deep in the worst of reality. I don’t have to tell you that. You’re still reeling too, I’m sure, from the footage. The photos. The faces of all of those children and their teachers. The gash the whole thing left in all of us.

Last weekend, before it all happened, my Mama Friend watched the coroner drive past her house first thing in the morning and pick up her neighbor – the kind man who walked his dog through the back of their shared yards four times a day.

Last weekend, whatever small spark of life that rendered my pregnancy test positive slipped away during the fifth week, and I felt it fall like a star from my body.

The second Advent candle burns on the kitchen table, representing either love or peace (depending on who you ask), while somewhere across the country both are crushed in one incomprehensible moment.

I sat in a coffee shop on Saturday night with the fake fire lit and Frank Sinatra crooning about Christmas, and outside, an ambulance flew down the road, flashing, wailing, and I was so aware of it. The uncertainty. The possibility of more death. The reality that sometimes you don’t get a “Christmas miracle.”

Maybe the husband leaves. Maybe you turn to wake him and he is gone and you have to call the coroner on the second Saturday of Christmas. Maybe the pregnancy dissolves or never happens at all. Maybe you, who want love so desperately, do not get a handsome stranger and an unlikely romance. Just more loneliness.

And what do you do when the angels do not come? When that old Christmas magic is not enough? What happens when a gunman comes and your world shatters like dropped glass during the most wonderful time of the year?


I keep thinking about Luci Shaw’s phrase: shears of miracle. The cold metal, the glint of it, the violent nature of cutting. I am oddly comforted by the language in the poem: a miracle as a sharp thing. A sword, a knife, a snapping of threads.

Because God this world is dark. And the rosy whorls of romance in the sappy Christmas movies can’t penetrate it. And the cheery songs can’t change it, and from now on, our troubles won’t actually be far away. Life keeps happening even though it’s Christmas, even though we’d like it to just stop for a few lousy moment so we can lie under the Christmas tree with our precious babies and look up at the light.

This year, I don’t need a golden, haloed baby and his beatific mother posed neatly in a lit manger. I need the sharp reality of it. I need Love to come bold and defiant and wild. I need it to be strong enough and bright enough to cut through this dark.

I need shepherds to show up with their mud-caked fingernails and their dusty feet because this is not just about a baby, it’s about a rebellion. It’s about Light come to shatter this darkness, to cut the evil that binds hearts. It’s Love stronger than hate, stronger than that which is broken inside of us.

I need  the blood and the pain of a lonely, helpless birth. I need the dirt and the shit and the wide-eyed fear and the star above the whole messy thing, the only assurance that God is still in this. That even though it doesn’t look like it at all, the promise is coming true.

It is cutting through the darkness now. Miracle. It is sharp enough and strong enough, and it will change the world entirely.

42 thoughts on “Christmas Miracle

  1. Oh girl. Yes. I’m lighting candles as a discipline this year. And with a prayer that the light will not be overcome – in me. Sorry to hear about your loss(es).

    1. Love the idea of the discipline of lighting candles. What a beautiful image. (And thank you.)

  2. The reality that sometimes you don’t get the Christmas miracle… Truth!
    Thank you for sharing your heart, and your words! Praying for you!

    1. Yes, not the pretty, hazy pink one. But the big sharp beautiful one? We all get that. (Thanks Julie.)

  3. Beautifully said. And, though I barely know you, I wish I could give you a big, long bear hug right now. For so many reasons.

  4. Oh, friend. First, I smiled and nodded in recognition of those awful cheesy movies. I tell myself to steer clear of those horrible plots only to get sucked back in. Right now it does seem nice to escape from the reality of this Christmas for an hour or two. To see someone get a happy ending. I have no doubt there will be some warm and happy moments while I’m home but I also know it will be tinged with the bittersweet. I need the sharp reality of this Christmas, too. No doubt about it. I’m so sorry for your loss and for mine and for all who suffer this season. Lord, have mercy on us all.

    1. I know. I usually pop those movies like candy this time of year, but since Friday I haven’t been able to. It just rings too dishonest in the face of so much darkness. Yes, we need mercy and the blade of the miracle. Thanks Leigh.

  5. I’m sorry for your loss, Addie. Thanks for sharing this… I’ll be thinking about the “shears of miracle” all day.

    1. Thanks so much Amy. And I know — that image has stuck with me as well. Thankful for Luci Shaw’s poetry this season.

  6. Oh Addie…yes..the fierceness of silver blade, cutting, rending, opening
    but also the glint of light reflected in its shiny surface…
    all of this.
    I am so sorry for your loss, at once completely yours while also engulfed in another grief…it seems too much.
    Praying that you, we, the world, can hang on for the change to come.

    1. “Praying that you, we, the world, can hang on for the change to come.” Yes. Thanks Holly.

  7. Oh, Addie. You know how often your words help bring healing to my spirit. I wish my words had the ability to do the same for you. Praying for you and your whole family on this Christmas, that the light will break through and the earth will shake and peace will rush in mighty.

    1. Thanks so much Brenna. I’m okay. Sad about the baby but at peace. Struggling with the shooting still, as we all are. Just seems like a lot of sad for two short weeks. Love the image of “peace rushing in might.” Yes.

  8. Three years ago, the week before final exams, I was told my full-professor faculty position was being eliminated as a budget cut. At a christian college that thinks of itself as a seriously intellectual and evangelical college. Before the final exam, it is expected that the professor delivers a short devotional. Mine was based on a reading of Psalm 23. For Christmas for many students, it is all green pastures and still waters. For others, it is the valley of the shadow of death. While many students are going home to fond memories and family traditions, others are going home to parents that have split, an empty place at the table due to a death in the family, a parent’s announcement of an awful disease or illness, a girl- or boyfriend who just wants to be friends.

  9. Hi Addie,
    A shear of miracle…..I mourn for your loss and for the loss our world has experienced. The swords that slice through our lives and bring us to our knees are often the very tool by which we feel God’s grace. If not for his grace and strength, I could not make it in this dark, evil world. Yesterday, I put my 22 year old son on a plane to Florida for a 60-90 day rehab, after 5 years of substance abuse. He is my youngest, my baby boy, my Benjamin? His 2-1/2 year old daughter has been stripped from him and from ME, her Memaw, by his narcissistic estranged wife, the bane of our existence, the trigger (not the cause) of his addiction. He was not allowed to tell her goodbye. He will miss Christmas gatherings, yet, oddly enough, he WILL have Christmas. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to “step in and do the job already”. I am impatient. I am heartbroken. I have learned to draw lines in the sand. Tough Love? Try “Impossible Love”.
    Regarding the “spirit of Christmas”….I have a family member, who lives an alternative lifestyle and was just abandoned by her partner – her post on facebook brought me to tears: “Christmas just won’t have the same meaning this year”….Whaaaaaat? Here’s the rub – Christmas has the SAME, CONSISTENT MEANING EVERY YEAR! I want to shout and scream and rant and rave at people who ignore the very thing that could heal their souls. Christmas doesn’t have to be “merry”, although I long for the Christmases of my past, of my childhood, when life was no more complicated than this: Christmas was the celebration of Jesus’ birth AND the year-long anticipation and excitement was almost too much too bear; when our multi-colored, Icecicle covered TACKY Christmas tree winked and blinked with the flickering of the fire while Perry Como sounds filled the room from our console style stereo. When I creeped into the living room early on Christmas morning, before my younger siblings, so I could take in the sight of the undisturbed, carefully arranged presents that “Santa” had left for us, and the see the crumpled napkin, drained glass of milk and half-eaten cookie that he ate for sustenance on his long journey around the world. What a surprise! Now, I cringe in fear and wonder, what horrible surprise lurks around the corner? Can I bear the load? What sword will slice me open and leave me wounded and broken and starved for “something good”? When will we have “peace on earth and good will toward men”? In GOD’s timing, it’s the truth, it’s real, it’s scary, but it’s coming. HE is coming to bind up our wounds and give us Peace. Love to you and your readers.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing a little bit of your story, Tracy. This is sad and hopeful all at once. Thank you.

  10. Oh Addie, I’m so sorry for your loss. So, so sorry.
    “I need Love to come bold and defiant and wild. I need it to be strong enough and bright enough to cut through this dark.”

    1. So sorry you’re feeling so lonely Hannah. That is one of the hardest things, in my opinion. Praying peace and the shears of miracle for you this year.

  11. Oh, Addie. Sending love and shedding tears for the heartache of your loss, tears of gratitude for the way you say it all here. I don’t know what else to say, just sending love.

  12. Thanks so much, everyone, for the kind words regarding my miscarriage. It’s been two weeks since it happened, and though I still feel a sort of aching sadness, I’m mostly at peace.

    I bring it up here not to elicit pity or to draw your eye to my own sadness, but rather to illustrate how brokenness and loss and ache are part of the human story. Sometimes it’s big and violent and unexpectedly awful like it was in Connecticut last week; sometimes it’s small and commonplace and almost invisible.

    But I’m aware this month in a new way how suffering doesn’t just disappear because it’s Christmas. I’m aware how much we need God’s Light to break through in a sharp, real way.

    Thanks again for the thoughts and prayers. So thankful for this community.

  13. Addie, you do it every time. Your words are that miracle, cutting through the darkness and the cynicism in my heart. Thank you.

    And I am so, so sorry for your loss. You are loved and prayed for, friend.

  14. Addie,

    Thanks for writing truth. I’ve almost managed to ignore American Christmas altogether this year. I am so tired of the canned glow of lies. Your writing frequently keeps me seeing things real and true. God born for us so that we might live. The messiness just is and nothing will change that until Christ returns for His bride. I am so sorry for your loss Addie. Will lift you and family in prayer this week.

  15. Addie – I have not been able to write since Sandy Hook. Neither has another writer friend. We both are afraid of opening our hearts for fear of what might rush in. She and I will work that out … over coffee … over the next few weeks.

    I tried reading this out loud to my wife and had to stop about every other sentence to let the sobbing run its course.

    I never actually finished reading it to her.

    I’ll try again tomorrow.

    Thank you. I have no idea how you are able to do what you do. You are an amazingly talented woman, writer, and friend … to those you touch deeply but have never seen.

  16. Sweet girl, I am sorry for this loss, ‘like a star falling.’ And I am heartbroken and bereft over this national tragedy. And I am weeping inside all the time about my mom and my MIL who are both leaving us thru the horrors of dementia and confusion. But these words? Oh, my. THESE are the ones I read at the opening of our very small Blue Christmas service tonight. Had photo copies of the last one and this one and all were picked up. Thank you for them, thank you for sharing your rich gifts with all of us. Check out Milton’s Advent post tonight – he is a joy to read (he and John Blase just finish me). . . – the music videos are rich.

  17. Thank you, Addie, for sharing your pain in such a courageous, honest way, because it has allowed you to also share another way to think about and understand Christmas. I needed your words. Much love to you…

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