While most of us know Christmas as the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, I would venture to guess there is a much larger population than we think who are hurting during the holidays.
I recently heard Mandisa’s new song, “Christmas Makes Me Cry” and it made me realize just how difficult of a season this can be, even for those of us who celebrate the joy of Jesus’ birth.
For one reason, I’d say it’s simply because we stress ourselves out.
So many of us look forward to Christmas for so long that once it’s here, we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves to create the ‘perfect’ month for everyone.
Secondly, and a close follow up to reason #1, no-one is perfect. So to think we can create the perfect anything is absurd. Even when nothing else is going wrong around you, people are still people, and face it: we disappoint each other.
Thirdly, most of us do have broken relationships in our lives, whether through death, separation or even just family fall-outs. Regardless of where you stand in this spectrum, this season that centers around family will make those relationships ever-more present in your mind and can make your celebrations slightly bittersweet.
I for one spent most of our Christmas Eve service crying my eyes out. I grieved over most of the reasons I just listed…and then was mad at myself that I couldn’t ‘move on’ and stay focused on the reason I was sitting in church in the first place.
I’m especially thankful to my friend Trish (who, with her husband, wrote an amazing book on relationships that JUST came out, “Beyond Ordinary“…everyone needs to pick this one up!) who let me cry on her shoulder and reminded me that not only is it impossible for me to control anyone else’s behavior, it’s OK for me not to have all of my own pieces perfectly put together all the time either.
Of course, there are the plethora of other valid reasons why crying at Christmas is more prevalent than we might think:
*Families separated because they are separated by members serving in the military
*Family members in the hospital or assisted-living centers who can’t be at home
*Families torn apart due to a recent tragedy, whether it’s a car accident, an affair or anything in between
*Foster children who have been bounced from home to home and find themselves, once again, without someone to love them
*Family members who desperately want to get home to each other, but can’t afford to travel
*Children with parents in prison
*The homeless who don’t know where to go to get a hot meal on Christmas
I could go on and on, and still may not even have touched on what you’re experiencing this Christmas.
I bring this up not to depress you, but rather to say you’re not alone. And as much as I love this time of year, I think I may have been living in a bit of ignorance to think that just because the calendar says it’s Christmas, everyone should therefore be happy.
But I’m reminded of song lyrics that say, “Though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning” and God’s promise from James 1:2-3 that tells us:
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
My tear-fest yesterday reminded me of what my Christian walk is all about: I’m not promised happiness on a day-to-day basis, but I can Choose Joy. In Kay Warren’s book with the same title, I learned that “Joy is deeper than happiness, lasts longer than excitement, and is more satisfying than pleasure and thrills”.
So if you’re hurting this holiday or crying this Christmas, just remember, we worship a Savior who Himself experienced the ultimate pain and humiliation: a criminal’s death on a cross. Reach out to Him with your troubles while also reaching out to those around you. Chances are if you’re harboring hurt, they just may be too, and you can comfort each other while challenging each other to choose joy this Christmas.
Wherever you are and whatever you may be going through, I pray the peace of Christ Jesus falls on you and your family. Merry Christmas!