I see you over there, lost in thought as you watch the holiday shoppers. I recognize that look on your face—that look that says, How did I end up here? Why do all these happy, busy people seem so foreign to me? Didn’t I used to be one? I know the loneliness/sadness/despair you are battling even as you make attempts at joining in the Christmas fun.
I understand the grief in your heart that is outweighing the joy Christmas promises, the feeling that you might never experience joy again. The question of how you can get through this Christmas. Did someone you love pass away this year? Is someone you love very sick? Are you very sick? Are you counting down days not until Christmas, but until God reaches out his hand to take you or your loved one Home?
Are you headed home to an empty house? Do you hesitate checking mail because you might not have any Christmas cards—maybe your fear that no one is thinking about you will be confirmed. Does it hurt to remember Christmases past when the laughter and gifts and singing flowed generously? Or maybe you’ve yet to have a merry Christmas. Maybe that in and of itself has been denied to you.
Do you struggle to mouth the Christmas hymns at church, the songs that seem to be bringing everyone else an enormous amount of joy and hope? Are you fighting back tears every time you see a child’s excitement over Santa or Baby Jesus? Maybe you’re so used to fighting back tears that there aren’t any left. Maybe you’ve cried all your tears and your heart just feels numb.
Does hopelessness grip your heart? Or maybe it’s fear or despair or loneliness or anger. Goodness, I can get angry at Christmas time. Maybe grief has gripped you. Worry. Anxiety. Frustration. Exhaustion. Physical pain. Emotional pain. Regret. Dread.
Feelings that seem contrary to every Hallmark commercial, the carolers on the streets downtown, the Christmas movies airing 24/7, the radio blaring perky Christmas music, happy Christmas Facebook and Instagram posts shoving smiles and laughter in your face.
Oh, friend. Will your hurting soul hear me if I gently suggest that those feelings you’ve been wrestling with are true Christmas feelings? That those very feelings, those excruciating circumstances and pain and lack of love are the very reason the first Christmas happened in the first place? That the fact the brokenness of this world has hit us and hurt us is the very reason God sent his son. Immanuel. God with us.
God has a plan to redeem all of this. It started with Jesus coming as a baby born in dirty, smelly, lonely, heart-wrenching circumstances and will end when Jesus comes again in glory—majestic, fierce, overwhelming glory.
This in-between time is hard, huh? But you are not alone; remember, God has come. Immanuel! And after Jesus died to restore us to Himself, paying the price for our sin, he left his Spirit, which dwells in all who believe.
That means that when I struggle to get out of bed in the morning, when my heart feels so heavy with grief that I’m crying into my soup at dinner and my children are asking what’s wrong, when longing for my sisters is so powerful that my head aches, when my phone is dinging ding after ding announcing sad news, I am not alone. God is with me. He is with me in my darkest places. And he knows the longings of my heart that I can’t even articulate; he knows the secret hurts that I’m not sure I even have words for. He knows me through and through. And he loves me and is with me.
He knows YOU through and through. He loves you and is with you! His heart is for you, not against you. He wants to heal you and redeem your sadness and remind you of what it means to hope and live in joy. And even when we can’t see or understand what he is doing, we can trust that he is working toward redemption. He is always working toward redemption.
Friend, those hard emotions…Those are the true feelings of Christmas, because they are what call out for deliverance and restoration and healing and hope. Those emotions groan for Immanuel. God with us. And friend, those groans will not go unanswered.