For my family, bad things always seem to happen between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

It started in the 1990s with a car trip from San Diego, California, where we were living, to Kansas City to visit family. A mostly uneventful trip, until we were the victims of a near carjacking in front of a New Mexico hotel after a long day of driving.

My mom, who scared off the carjacker, talked with the police officers after the incident and found out that gang violence in the area was high. It was likely some type of initiation.

We never drove out to Kansas City again.

In the early 2000s, my father’s appendix burst in early December. It was so severe, he ended up with a footlong incision on his stomach. On Christmas morning, I remember he was definitely still in pain.

I was the next to take the fall in our string of holiday misfortunes in 2007. On Monday of the last week of college before winter break, my final quarter, I shattered my left foot. The story is a little strange and complicated, so let’s just say I had a long fall—though I can say no alcohol was involved.

Needless to say, I didn’t take any of my finals.

My foot was so bad that I was put on bedrest for a week before the surgery for swelling with the orthopedic surgeon’s emergency number because I was at somewhat remote risk of losing my foot. My surgeon later said the inside of my foot looked like a “grenade” went off.

Though the break and recovery weren’t all fun, I did get the chance to wait inside instead of outside for our church’s popular Christmas Eve event. Being temporarily hobbled had its perks sometimes.

It was me again the next time as well. While in Hawaii for Thanksgiving, yes Hawaii, I broke my wrist and had to have surgery after a supposedly calm horse-riding excursion in a valley went awry. To say I made the trip a little less fun is an understatement.

So now, I have a plate and eight or nine screws embedded in my wrist as a permanent souvenir of our island adventure.

Probably one of the most devastating things to happen was when my mom found out that her cancer had returned and spread. We went from the happiness of Christmas morning, to wondering the day after if she would make it to the next holiday season or even her birthday in April. The rest of the week was a whirlwind as we went down to Orlando for testing, which you can read more about here.

Two years later, also in early December, doctors found tumors in her brain. She had to have surgery—ironically on the same day I broke my foot over 10 years earlier.

By God’s grace, she’s been in stage four for four years and is still doing well.

This year is the most bittersweet, as my grandmother just passed away. Having lived close by us for years, her absence, especially this holiday season, is profound. Though her death wasn’t unexpected, she had been in increasingly frail health for the last year. It’s still difficult to lose her wonderful and gracious presence in our lives.

But we know that she is now pain free and in her Savior’s arms.

And that’s the thing. Regardless of how difficult our Christmas seasons have been sometimes—it doesn’t change what happened 2,000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem.

Whether COVID disrupted your life and cost you your job, you or a family member got a scary medical diagnosis, or a family member died, the Savior of the World was still born all those centuries ago and died 33 years later for our sins.

His promise of salvation, regardless of what’s going on in your life, remains the same. That’s why we celebrate Christmas, and that’s why I continue to love this holiday despite the family accidents and tragedies that have befallen us. It’s not about the tree, tinsel or lights, it’s about the promise of things eternal, which is infinitely more powerful than any gift-wrapped present.

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