Most of us love the Christmas season. Yeah, it’s over-commercialized and stressful, but there are so many things to enjoy: delicious desserts, classic movies and songs, gatherings with family and friends, fresh snow, giving and receiving gifts, festive décor inside and outside the house, family traditions, new memories, and a host of local activities. I love Christmas, and so despite some cautions I might give in this blog, I’m more like Buddy the Elf than the Grinch.
But despite the joys making the season bright, can we be honest and admit there are also sorrows and trials at times making the season dim? Some years your Christmas might be memorable while others it’s forgettable. Sometimes the Christmas season disappoints. Haven’t you felt like Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas? Maybe in that year, or in a string of years, it feels like Christmas just doesn’t work for you. Maybe while everyone else is enjoying the season and dancing to jingle bells it all rings hollow to you.
If that’s you, if Christmas has disappointed or is disappointing you this year, it’s okay. In fact, it might present you with an opportunity to ask again, like Charlie Brown: “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?”
The good news is that Christmas isn’t just for those enjoying the fun and festivities of the season, but Christmas can be even more beautiful to the broken.
One problem we suffer from around Christmas is we try to fulfill our needs and longings with the magic of the Christmas season rather than the meaning behind the Christmas story.
We are lonely so we hope parties and gatherings will fix it, but they can’t. We feel empty or lack joy all year long so we hope the wonder and festivities of the season will give us the inner, satisfying joy we long for. But it can’t; at least not for long. Christmas can be great but it can’t be everything you need. It’s a blessing, but it’s not a savior. This can sometimes be why Christmas actually becomes a painful or disappointing season when the reality of what it gives doesn’t meet our expectations going into it.
We know all too well that temptations, trials, pains, and sorrows aren’t postponed during December. It’s not a month exempt from the brokenness in our world. Financial challenges, marriage problems, sickness, hospital visits, and even death happen just like the rest of the year. Our struggles with loneliness, anxiety, disappointment, jealousy, and depression not only don’t go away during the holidays but sometimes they increase. Even though I want this season to be special, I get frustrated and snap back at my family just like in other months. We don’t suddenly become good people who no longer sin and need grace. So when Christmas feels sad, when Christmas disappoints, when your Christmas season brings struggles and sorrows, don’t lose hope.
If this is you, all the festivities and Christmas magic we might normally get caught up in will be of no help for what you’re dealing with. But the good news is that the Christmas story points to a Savior who does give hope and help. Redirect your attention away from the “magic of Christmas” and rest in the meaning of Christmas.
The Christmas story comforts with the historical reality of a loving and gracious God humbling himself to rescue sinners such as us so we can find hope in our darkness, healing in our brokenness, life in our emptiness, joy in our weariness, and salvation in our sinfulness. Those in pain, loss, disappointment, and unfulfilled longings are reminded that God is our Immanuel. He is with us and cares for us and has sent his son as proof. He draws near to the humble and broken. We forget Christmas commemorates one who came to the lonely, the weak, the sorrowful, the neglected, and the desperate.
If Christmas feels hard more than it feels happy, it’s a chance to find hope in Jesus rather than the season. Christmas is for you. Christmas isn’t just for those making joyful, hallmark worthy memories but it’s for the hurting and disappointed. Realizing your need and admitting your struggles paves the way to finding in Jesus what you can’t find in yourself, the world, or the hoopla of the holidays.
Only those lacking peace need a Prince of Peace.
Only the weak will find God to be the Mighty One.
Only the confused, fearful, and anxious need a Counselor.
If you’re alone this Christmas or family relationships are strained it’s to you that God is the Everlasting Father.
The broken find joy in the healer.
Sinners find hope in a savior.
Many nights as a parent I feel weary and worn-down, wondering how we can better shepherd our daughter. I can find distractions in a Christmas movie or I can find peace in the God I cast my cares on and rest in. I can find comfort in knowing Jesus my Savior felt weariness and emptiness and so he is full of understanding, compassion, and empathy. It should be no surprise to me, but I find in Jesus the things I need most but can’t find anywhere else—including all the shiny things of Christmas season. Jesus comes to heal our brokenness, satisfy our souls, and give a peace that goes beyond the twinkling lights and tasty cookies. Every discovery of my weakness is then a chance to rediscover how Christ’s fullness and grace offers exactly what I need.
For all the broken this Christmas, it’s there in that brokenness we might again have eyes to see the beauty of Jesus. He is a friend of sinners. He offers to carry our burdens and give strength where we are weak and weary. He gives grace for all our failures, mess, and heartache. If the magic of Christmas has run out, consider the meaning of Christmas this year.
(Read part two on Christmas hymns that capture this so well.)