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Ask A Pastor: ‘Tis the Season to be Jolly?


Q: Sometimes I struggle with feeling “jolly” during the holiday season. Is that normal?

A: What a great question.  The holidays can be a mixed bag.  The “experience” differs from person to person.  It is a happy time to focus on Christ but can also be a time to remember pain, loss, and loneliness.  But the songs say, “Tis the season to be jolly.”  So, what if I don’t feel jolly? 

I love the holiday season. I love the food, the smells, the trees, the time with loved ones and everything that goes along with it. That being said, for me, the holiday season can also be one of the most stressful times of the year.  Far too many times I’m overly focused on my parental “folly” in the midst of singing songs about the holiday “jolly.”  The extended time with family and children tends to give me even more opportunities to compare myself to others.  Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy.”  I’ve found that to be so very true in my own life. 

Alongside comparison stands judgment, either judgment of my own failures, or self-righteous judgment of my own “successes.”  The comparison can lead me to think thoughts like, “if I were just a better parent then….” or even worse, “at least I’m not like ____.”  Sometimes my judgments give birth to unreasonable expectations heaped upon the shoulders of myself and my family where fellowship becomes caricatured into a need to “perform” when we’re at home or with others at parties and family gatherings.  The holidays are also a time for us to remember loved ones that we miss so dearly.  All of that is bundled up into the season of “cheer.”  And so begins the gerbil wheel of fighting for that holiday cheer.

If you experience sadness during the holidays and if you have to fight for that cheer, please know that you’re not alone. Whether it’s comparison, loss, loneliness, or something in between, Jesus understands your pain.  I once heard someone say that when God gives gifts, they come wrapped in “people.”  Jesus is that gift, and He understands our pain and sympathizes with our weaknesses. God has walked in our shoes before us and understands how hard the road may be to walk.  He knits us to Himself through His Holy Spirit.  We receive that gift through faith alone.  In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” The great thing is that God is holding us in His arms on the path now, and He will carry us to the end.  He’s standing right beside us all the time, and we may take our pain to Him.  He also gives us the gift of “people” through His church so that we don’t have to walk that staircase alone.  This season, in our joy and in our pain, let’s walk together and remember our God who promises to give us mercy and grace to help in our time of need.  That promise is true for the holidays and for every day of our lives.