When Christmas Isn't so Holly Jolly

I have the fondest memories of Christmas as a child. One of the earliest ones was the thrill of Santa Claus sneaking into the house. All of us kids would hide. We didn't want to see him by mistake, but we knew he was in the house because we heard the bells jingling. So we snuggled together while trembling with fear and excitement.As I grew older, I remember the joy of shopping for hours for Christmas presents for everyone in my family and then stopping at a Christmas tree farm and tying it to the roof of our car. We drove home in the dark and oohed and aahed at all the lights. The bags were placed under our beds or in the closet until we could wrap them in secret. During the season, our youth group at churchwent Christmas caroling at the homes of shut-ins and senior citizens in our congregation. As we stood shivering and singing in the cold, I dreamt of one day having a handsome young man standingbeside me with his arm around my shoulder keeping me warm as our voices blended in cheerful harmony. On Christmas Eve, we grabbed our wrapped gifts and placed them around the tree. But the presents remained unopened. First, we went to our little church for Christmas Eve service. Oh, the excitement! Everyone wore a new outfit for this special occasion and we participated in the Christmas program. After service, we hung around and talked with all our friends. Opening presents could wait. Now was the time to compliment each other on the great Christmas performances and simply enjoy the warmth of friendship, often sharing with each other what we hoped to find under the tree this year.What can compare to the magic and romance of Christmas? The excitement and expectations! And how much greater the devastation when Christmas cannot live up to our hopes and dreams. The grief brought on by unexpected events, deaths, broken relationships all seem compounded during the holiday season. The Christmas carol that made you smile last year, breaks your heart instead. You see your friends giddy with the joy of the season and you long to weep for the merriment that has been stolen from you this year. Watching a Hallmark Christmas movie is a painful reminder of all you have lost. You feel unable to muster the will to put up a tree, but the lack of one in your home is another reminder of your loss.While I decorated the tree this week, my heart was heavy as I thought about some of my friends and family who have faced heavy losses this year. I'm normally an optimist and seldom have the blues, but suddenly the depth of their pain overwhelmed me. Christmas music played in the background only adding to the grief I felt. Where was the magic of the Christmas season? Shouldn't my heart be light with excitement and filled with anticipation for the upcoming celebrations?Then seemingly out of nowhere and ever so gently the truth settled into my heart. The magic and romance of Christmas is fluff. It's nice, but it's nice fluff. When the pain of loss overshadows the joy of Christmas, the true meaning of Christmas becomes the only thing that matters. When everything about the holiday is too painful to bear, the true meaning of Christmas infiltrates my broken heart as I remember the Savior who came to give me life and hope. Grief cannot take that away. Instead, the gift God gave to me by sending His Son becomes more real and meaningful when all the distractions of the holidays become meaningless.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10 NIV

When God sent his son to earth, to suffer and to die for our sins, He brought us deliverance from sin AND He brought us hope. The grief will not last. Although your heart is heavy this year, it will not always stay that way as you look to Him for the healing of whatever it is that has caused you pain.

"...Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30:5 NLT

Did you ever see the Christmas children's cartoon, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town?" This was probably my favorite of all the children's Christmas programs. The part I liked best was when Winter Warlock begins to thaw. He doesn't want to be mean any longer but he's so frozen and stiff that he can't move out of his frozen world. Kris Kringle encourages him to take one step. That's all. Just one step. As Winter Warlock stiffly raises his painful and frozen foot, we see him take that first step. Kris Kringle then encourages him to take another step and very slowly we see warmth begin to seep into his joints and limbs with each halting step Winter Warlock takes across the floor until he can finally do it with ease. Through the years, the words to this song have often played in my mind when I've faced difficulties and didn't know where to begin.

"Put one foot in front of the other,And soon you'll be walking 'cross the floor.Put one foot in front of the other,And soon you'll be walking out the door."Take your first step. You may not feel like it. It may seem unnatural. Do it anyway. Allow your friends to be your "Kris Kringle" to help you through this season of pain. Refuse to hide. Take steps toward your healing and enter into the joy of the season as best as you can. Jesus, our Savior, was born and you have hope! Your heart will heal. Some of the people reaching out to you have very likely faced an un-merry Christmas in the past. Let them help. This dark period in your life will enable you to comfort others who will inevitably be in your shoes one day.


January 19, 2022