When Christmas is Hard

As sweet October pulled out of the drive, I waved goodbye to her mild temperament and vivid attire. I stepped aside to welcome the first of November into my home. November is a temperamental guest. She oscillates between hot and cold and has spent her weeks reminding me in a strident but cheery voice that there is work to be done. Halls to be decked. Trees to be trimmed. The goose is getting fat.

The holidays are almost upon me.

frostbitten leaf laying on the frozen ground.

The season is announced with food, and lights, and songs, and decorations, and parties, and food, and guests, and presents, and holiday concerts, and more food.

Especially around Christmas, there’s an expectation of instantaneous and unfettered joy. Peace on earth. Good will toward men.

But for some, the noise, and the holiday movies, and the visuals of family togetherness announce louder than ever that it’s not such a wonderful life. The frantic pace and even the cheeriest smiles magnify the depth of loneliness, or loss, or depression. There’s no date on which pain takes a sabbatical. No magical eve at which sorrow declares, “Time out! I’ll be back just after midnight on January 1.”

For many, the holidays are an acute reminder of what they don’t have. An unmarried woman longs to prepare a feast for a family of her own. Another suffers through her first holiday without her spouse, or without her child. Another family struggles to put food on the table, let alone gifts under the tree. Still another battles an invisible, inner turmoil that seeps into the cracks, crowding out peace.

My friends, there’s nothing wrong with taking joy in the holiday season and celebrating Christmas with gusto. Indeed, for the Christian, the birth of Christ is the hallmark of our existence. The day that altered the timeline. The moment that hope was renewed in the world. Let your gratitude pour forth at every encounter. Let your heart erupt with song. Joy to the World the Lord is Come!

I only ask this: During this holiday season, with all the hoopla and the mayhem and the love and the song, don’t forget to bring your gifts to the Christ child. Our Lord loves people more than presents. Every kindness you do for another, He takes as a personal kindness to himself (Matt.25:40). And people aren’t charity, they’re part of an extended family. A family of those who are loved by God.

"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." Romans 15:7

So, could you set an extra place at your table? Invite a friend to coffee? Embrace the lonely? Save a seat at church? Buy some extra gifts?

Maybe you could hold another’s sorrow and share your laughter. Maybe this holiday, offer what you can, serve where you can, and love at every opportunity.

Resources you might find helpful

Unwrapping Martha’s Joy: Having a Merry Christmas in Your Heart and Home by Brenda Poinsett

Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression by Whitney Hopler

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