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When Christmas is Hard


Christmas is filled with a cascade of traditions, and each person has his favorites. This may even include the airing of many Christmas commercials. Some commercials have been around for years such as the Hershey’s Kisses handbell choir and the Campbell’s Soup snowman. There are many that show snapshots of cozy homes in winter filled with laughter, hugs, and love. There are also popular ones that communicate the value of looking outside oneself to the emotions of those around and sharing joy. It is often the commercial of an elderly man alone for Christmas who is noticed and cared for by his neighbor that resonates deeply in the viewers’ heart.

The advertising mirrors a heavenly truth that is felt in the holiday season: that in a lifetime there are often many great memories forged at Christmas and often a sense of nostalgia reigns—but there are also moments of pain and an aching in the heart for something more than this world can provide. Christ brings hope and light to brokenness and need, and there are years when the truth of Christ’s care is the only hope that clings to the soul.   

The first Christmas itself brought a mixture of despair and hope as the Bible describes Joseph and Mary rejected and overlooked. Yet they held tightly to the words of God delivered to them, reminding them that in all circumstances he was with them. In circumstances filled with pain and in seasons of great elation, that God would use it all to show his glory.

Is the Lord calling you to take grief and despair to him? How might the Lord be calling you to cling to him as the one true hope this holiday season?

One reason the commercial of a neighbor noticing another’s pain is so impactful is the care it communicates. Christ calls us to be in community with one another and in love to bear one another’s burdens. How do you see others in your community taking their grief and despair to the Lord, and how can you communicate God’s care for them this year?

Are you willing to stop and ask the Lord to reveal those around you who are hurting this year? Are you willing to follow the Lord into their pain and hold out the hope he has given you in times of your grief?

Perhaps this holiday is led by feeling the pain of missing a loved one who has passed away or the ache of a shattered dream or unmet expectation. Maybe it is the deep joy of having family around but knowing the days are short and in desperation wanting to freeze a moment in time. Maybe you are walking through a season of drought crying out to the Lord from the desert and questioning if he hears you. Or maybe the worries of the country and the world are weighing heavily on your heart. Christmas doesn’t just point to the baby who was born but the reason for Jesus coming for his people. His people are needy and hurting, and he longed so deeply to reveal his concern for them that he took drastic measures to communicate his faithfulness.  

There is joy indeed at experiencing and expressing the hope of Christ. There is also grief and sorrow as the short days and dark nights remind people of the brokenness and need in themselves and in the world. That’s the reason that Christmas this side of heaven is always in some ways a disappointment. What better time than Christmas to recognize the sorrow in the world, as Christmas itself points to the God who meets us in that disappointment and provides hope.  

How is the Lord calling you to take up your cross and endure hardship for his glory? How might your friends and family encourage you in that endeavor? Are you willing to communicate your need to God and to your community and rest in faith in the one who provides?