It’s December, and the holiday season and Christmas is coming soon! This past weekend Jeremy, Araina, Liam and I put up our Christmas lights and decorated the tree, did all of our Christmas gift shopping, and started our annual “watch every Christmas movie we own” adventure. In the weeks to come, we will bake a lot of cookies, spend time with family, and celebrate this wonderful season.
Because, after all, it is the MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR.
Only, for some of us, it’s not.
For many December is not a happy time. When there is an empty chair at the table or a loved one no longer on the other end of the phone, when bodies are ravaged by illness, when depression is too much to bear, when it’s nearly impossible to make mortgage or rent, let alone Christmas presents, when marriages are at their breaking point…. then December is no longer a happy season but a painful one marked by struggle, sorrow and grief. Some of us wish we could go to sleep November 30th and wake up well into the next year, having missed Christmas altogether.
But the truth is, the circumstances surrounding Christmas were not wonderful from the very beginning. Christmas is the story of a teenage girl, pregnant with a child that is not her husband’s. It is the story of a family who could not find welcome anywhere, and a child born in a dirty stable. It is the story of one sent in peace who was condemned to die unjustly. It is the story of a family of refugees who fled their homeland so their child would not be killed. And it is the story of God’s grace given freely to a world that rejected and condemned.
Still, even for those of us who suffer and are sad this time of year, December CAN be a wonderful time of year, if we remember that the beautify of Christmas is not in the gifts or the family gatherings, but in the message of hope and peace offered by the tiny baby who arrived on the first Christmas, Jesus Christ, the ultimate gift.
We can find hope this season we forget about the tinsel and trees, the presents and the ornaments and remember the story: Mary was alone and afraid, but found that God was with her. Joseph was disgraced, but became a part of God’s plan of redemption and forgiveness for the whole world. The world was in darkness, but God made light to shine into the darkness and offered hope. The sorrowful grieved, but God wiped their tears and sat with them in their grief. Christmas IS the most wonderful time of the year, not for the reasons that we see on TV or on Christmas cards, but because at Christmas God reminded us that we are not alone, and that we are loved.
So even as we celebrate this time of year, may we be mindful for those who are suffering. When you bake your Christmas cookies, remember to take a plate to your neighbor who is spending this December alone for the first time. When you plan your holiday meals, remember to call that friend who has no one to share Christmas dinner with this year. And when you sit down to enjoy the tree and the music, take the time to reach out to someone who is struggling with a phone call, a card, or a prayer.
And finally, if YOU are grieving or struggling this holiday season, please know you are not alone. You do not have to feel ashamed or guilty for not feeling joyous this season, and it is OK if you choose to skip the usual festivities and opt for quiet and routine instead. If you need someone to talk to, I am available for a visit, a phone call, or simply to pray for you. Please contact the church office to schedule an appointment, or send me an email. Your church family is here for you, and we love you.
May peace and comfort surround each of you this holiday season, and may you know deeply and assuredly that you matter, and you are not alone.