Christmas When You're Just Not Feeling It
By: Kristen McNulty
I don't know what this Christmas season is looking like for you, but there's no denying that in the middle of all the talk of joy and happiness and fa la la la, there are people who are really struggling to make it through this season. Maybe you're one of them. The message we are fed about Christmas through many of the movies and songs is that Christmas can only be happy and joyful if we're surrounded by a perfect family, around a tree that with mountain of gifts underneath, and with Mr or Mrs right is sitting next to us. Which is all well and good, I guess, if you're facing this Christmas season with the so-called perfect life, at least perfect according to the movies. But where does that leave the person with no family? The single person with no Mr or Mrs right? The family that is overwhelmed with grief from the loss of a loved one? The family that is struggling to make ends meet and has very little to go under the tree? While none of those circumstances are easy, I'd dare say that for those of us facing them, it puts us in a place where we have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a way that most people miss out on. A place where I found myself last Christmas when I unexpectedly lost my grandfather two weeks before Christmas, he and I were very close and I was used to seeing him nearly every day so the grief hit hard and it was followed by a terrible bout of sickness that took away my voice and left me stuck in bed instead of even attending Christmas Eve service. But it was in that place I was able to truly celebrate the wonderful gift of Christmas in a way I never had before.
You see when we strip away the presents with bows on top and the traditions of gathering with family to eat turkey and the Christmas love songs that are played non-stop, we find that the root of Christmas actually has very little to do with gifts or turkeys or family or spouses or even egg nog. Christmas is a story of people in absolutely hopeless circumstances who found their rescue in a baby, sent to earth by the God who loves us and refused to leave His children stuck in the hopelessness and darkness of sin.
Not unlike the darkness you might be feeling today, the people of Israel were trapped in a very dark time before Jesus was born. Isaiah highlighted that when he wrote,
"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine." (Isaiah 9:2)
The days of prosperity and peace had long left the nation and they were living oppressed, under the rule of another country's government. Where once they had walked so closely to God, the burden of falling short in their sin and the impossible standards the religious leaders had given them, left them without that once vital life-line to their creator. But in the middle of those hopeless circumstances, God choose to send His son. And in that fact alone is the beauty and hope that set apart Christmas from just a family holiday and invite us all to receive, believe and live what Christmas is truly all about.
Christmas isn't about perfect circumstances or presents or even the people who surround us. Christmas is about God stepping into the middle of our chaos and being with us, no matter what. Jesus' name, Emmanuel, literally means God with us (Matthew 1:23). What an incredible thing it is that no matter what mistakes we make or what circumstances we face, we have God with us, strengthening us with His power, filling us with His love and covering us with His peace! If the significance of that is falling short on you, just imagine your life for a moment without God. Without hope. Without knowing that the pain is only temporary. Without being assured that you would see your loved one you lost again.
And when we grasp what a truly life-changing gift we were given that first Christmas and when we truly allow Christ into our lives to be with us no matter what we face, we can shove aside the things the world tells us we should be experiencing and feeling at Christmas and instead come to the place where we can celebrate Christmas no matter what it is we are facing.
For those who are grieving, celebrating Christmas means being comforted by Christ and embracing the hope that because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, making any separation we face is only a temporary one.
For those who are lonely, Celebrating Christmas means spending time with the one who promised to never leave us or forsake us, and then taking the step to reach out to others who might be in the same place that we are, and in doing that, finding more than company, but finding purpose even in the pain.
For those who are financially strapped, celebrating Christmas means saying no to the lie the world tells us that expensive gifts are what makes or breaks our celebrations and instead pouring out our love, not dollars, on the people God places in our path.
Celebrating Christmas this way looks past the pain and grasps the truth of what Jesus coming to our earth really means, that no matter what we face, we have our Emmanuel, God with us, here and that even after we breath our last breath on this earth, we have a beautiful and pain free eternal life waiting for us with Him in heaven. Merry Christmas.
Reprint rights available on request. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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