Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. I excitedly anticipate it for weeks in advance and bask in its afterglow well into the New Year. It never loses its magic. The music enthralls me, the lights enchant me, and the snow delights me. Every year we celebrate it with family and friends. We exchange gifts, catch up, and play all manner of games. It’s a joyous time, a time for family, for watching children play, and, above all, a time to celebrate the gift of Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Many share my enthusiasm for Christmas. But it’s important to remember that for many people Christmas does not elicit joy but sadness. For those who have experienced the death of someone dear to them the joy of the holidays only deepens their sense of loss. For those who have experienced other forms of loss such as divorce, estrangement, and heartache, the holidays have a similar depressing effect. It only accentuates their loss. Christmas just isn’t the same when we can’t celebrate it with those we love.
My wife’s mother died tragically a few days before Christmas in 1996, so the holidays for us are always laced with sadness and with a profound sense of loss. She was the center, the heartbeat of the family, full of joy that would light up the Christmas season. In fact, the year she died she was planning a big Christmas party. It’s a complicated emotional time, especially for my wife. She enjoys the Christmas carols and the Christmas Eve service at our home church, but sometimes it triggers overwhelming grief.
So if you’re soaking in the joy of Christmas this season let me join you in celebration, but as we celebrate let’s be mindful of those who find the holidays difficult. Let’s think of ways to shed the light of Christmas to them without suppressing their grief. Don’t sing happy songs to an anguished heart. Let their tears flow. And if you’re blue this Christmas let me join you in your sadness. Jesus comes for you as well. His birth brings tidings of comfort and joy. If joy eludes you this Christmas, receive his comfort.