I am not the biggest fan of Christmas. Before you click away and hate me forever, let me explain. Christmas is the holiday with the most pressure. Expectations are that you buy everyone the perfect gift (more realistically, multiple gifts), listen to Christmas music constantly, decorate like Clark Griswold, and take part in family traditions that are as old as time itself. In a sense, there is a lot of pressure, and generally, a lot of unmet expectations.
The holiday season is supposed to be picture perfect, but for many, Christmas is anything but that. Many people enter the holiday season counting down until it is over. The pressures of the Christmas season are incredibly high, from financial pressure, family expectations, to the pressure of perfection… all of which leave many people more anxious than excited for Christmas. The reality for many is that their Christmas season is far less merry and bright, and far more dark and broken.
While we all may want the beautiful picture painted by Christmas songs, the reality for many of us is that this season reminds us of the broken things in our lives… Broken families. Financial strains. Broken relationships. Missing pieces.
Let me just say that I have certainly felt that, and still do. I feel those financial pressures, I feel the family expectations weighing heavily on me, and I feel the pressure of delivering a perfect season for my family, especially for my daughter. With this being her first Christmas, I feel like I need to deliver on everything in the world, establish traditions that last, and ensure she has the perfect first Christmas, even if she won’t remember any of it. However, the reality of living in a broken world with broken circumstances is that our high expectations often go unmet.
While many of us will be celebrating holidays making memories, many will also be celebrating this season with the reminder of a divorce. Many will open gifts with the looming reminder of a loved one that has passed, or illness in their family. Some will gather and be reminded of the child that wants nothing to do with them, or with the reminder that a parent or spouse walked out. Their holiday will be overshadowed by the dark cloud of brokenness, and they will be left with one simple thought: it’s not supposed to be this way.
I have been there. The first Christmas after my parents got divorced, I was sitting in my room, alone, eating Del Taco, and all I could think was “this is what Christmas is now.” I was miserable. The reality is that while people will paint a fake smile on for others, the pain is there, and they will think exactly what I did: “this is my new normal, and I hate it.”
I am not writing this to depress everyone, but rather, to recalibrate our hearts around why we celebrate, and to point back to the goodness of Jesus. The season leading up to Christmas, often referred to as Advent, is a time where we look back at the coming of Jesus, and look forward to His return. This is a time where we see that Jesus came at just the right time, and that the purpose of His coming to earth, the whole reason we celebrate Christmas, was to be the light of the world and mend our brokenness. Consider what John 1 says about Jesus:
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
One thing that I absolutely love about Christmas is Christmas lights. Christmas lights are a reminder that this is a season full of hope, even in the darkness. These lights are a beautiful picture of what Jesus came to accomplish. Because of the coming of Jesus, we can have life and light in the darkness.
In the midst of the reminders of the brokenness of our circumstances, it is hard to see past them. It is hard not to lay awake at night wondering how you can afford Christmas, or how you can give your kids the best day possible so they do not notice the missing pieces. However, I believe taking time to remember Jesus in this season, however you choose to do that, is the most effective way to see past your brokenness. One great way to remember Jesus’ coming is to look at Galatians 4:
4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.
Jesus is inviting us to orient ourselves around His coming, and why He came. The tendency of this season is to focus on the brokenness and darkness of your situation. We feel claustrophobic as the brokenness, pressures, and darkness overtake the season, but I would suggest to you that a focus on Jesus gives us a better picture of the hope of the season. Jesus came to give us life and light. We can choose to focus on why Jesus came, or we can just see the darkness.
Let me be clear: orienting ourselves around Jesus, rather than the darkness, will not take you problems away. You will still feel hurt, and the stresses don’t magically fade away. You may still think that your Christmas isn’t supposed to be this way, and that you have no hope. However, I believe that looking to Jesus in this season will prevent the darkness from overtaking this season. Jesus has promised to bring life and light to this season. He can redeem your darkness to tell a different story this Christmas season.
The real question that is left is this: do you believe that?
I’ll leave you with a quote about belief that has reshaped how I view this Christmas season:
“Belief is the antidote to losing heart.” -Levi Lusko
Trust the process. Take your next step. Now is your moment.