When Christmas Isn’t Merry or Bright

Mom’s snowflakes and a great-grandaughter who will have one for her tree someday.

I love the holidays. The little girl in me thinks the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Yet the big girl also knows the dark side of the holidays. Busyness. Stress. Greed. Sadness.

Yes, for many the most wonderful time of the year is hard.

Last week I was missing my parents. Mom and Dad loved Christmas. Even though money was always tight, they found ways to make it fun.  Josh, my oldest, fried our turkeys this year — and I watched through tears, remembering all the years Daddy perfectly carved our birds, insuring the light and dark meats didn’t touch on the platter. I was especially moved when my grandchildren started hanging the crocheted stars Mom tediously and lovingly made for our tree over twenty years ago when my kids were all little. One day I want each of My People to have one for their trees.

For years Christmas was hard on my sister because the man with whom she planned to spend the rest of her life left her with two young kids and she didn’t know how she would afford gifts. Christmas was sad for Benny as a teen because his 6-year-old sister died of leukemia the week before Christmas. An infertile friend dealt with the pain of not having a little one to share the holidays with year after year as she received yet more cute pictures of families in matching Christmas outfits. A friend in her 40’s recently admitted she has given up the hope that she’ll ever have a  husband with whom she can share the wonder and romance of Christmas. Another friend is worried that tension over the past year will result in not having happy holidays with her divided extended family. A grandmother I spoke with recently is sad because she won’t see her grandchildren for Christmas this year…again. And yet another close friend is facing the painful fact that this may be her last Christmas due to an ongoing battle with cancer.

Dad would have really enjoyed munching on this turkey as he carved it.

Are the holidays challenging for you? Does busyness, financial stress or sadness tempt you with anxious, sad thoughts about the coming weeks? Are you lonely? Isolated from those you would love to see during the holidays because you can’t afford to make the trip? Worried about how family times will go because people aren’t getting along? Wishing you had a special friend or little ones to shop for?

Honestly, I don’t have anything much to say except I understand and you’re not alone. A simple google search will let you see how prevalent holiday depression and sadness are. The coming of Jesus Christ was veiled in turmoil and perplexity then and we still live in a fallen world with broken people like you and me. This Christmas, like the very first one and every one since then, will be a mixture of joy and suffering for all who are willing to admit it.

My prayer is that even if this Christmas isn’t all merry and bright for you, it will be filled with an awareness of the love and nearness of God. He is Immanuel, God with us. God with you. In the midst of your worries or sadness or loneliness or stress He is near. He came then to live a sinless life to make a way for you to be forgiven. He’s here now, dwelling in you, to provide abiding assurance that your circumstances, though hard, are unmatched by His unwavering commitment to empower you to persevere. Because He came you can make it through this Christmas with joy in the midst of sadness or uncertainty.

Christ by highest heav’n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord.

Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a Virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity,

Pleased as men with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!


2 thoughts on “When Christmas Isn’t Merry or Bright

  1. As this is the first Holiday season I’m enjoying being married, I can’t help but be so.incredibly.burdened for those who are yet AGAIN traveling alone. Who are babysitting while couples shop together. Or who have lost their spouse this year and dont remember what Christmas was like without them…and dont want to know. I love your sensitivity to post on this.

    Can you help? On this note, how do we weep with those who weep and not forget to praise and worship God in seasons of prosperity and blessing in our own lives? I’m wrestling finding myself grieving for others more often than enjoying my “now”.

    Love you so much.

    • What a great question (as usual). I have the same problem (in a different area) so I’m not sure how to help you. I just know that in the same heart…at the same time…can reside joy and sorrow. It doesn’t HAVE to be joy OR sorrow; grief OR rejoicing; discontent OR gratitude. It can be both together. (I learned this from a book on marriage by Martha Peace called “The Excellent Wife.”) It’s the 2 Cor 4:8 principle of crushed but not despairing, etc right? So you and I can be intensely joyful at God’s blessing in our lives while simultaneously experiencing empathetic sorrow for others. The sadness doesn’t discount our joy and our joy doesn’t diminish our sadness. Just today (what is it with you and I???) I was in a conversation where I was very sad about a family going through disputes and conflict while experiencing deep gratitude for God’s grace through trials in my own family, resulting in a closeness I love. It feels “right” to temper my gratefulness with sadness over someone not having what I have. Yet I think that robs God of His glory for the persevering, sustaining, sanctifying grace that brought my own family through so much to the place He has brought us.

      Does this make sense?

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