Have you ever not been happy at Christmas time? I love this holiday, but I will say: it’s nothing like any of the others. In all my 46 years, I’ve never had to work so hard to keep His coming framed in my view while staying out of the muck of self-pity. It’s not just me. I can feel all the members of Team Stern doing the same thing. In the relentless sparkle and cheer of the holiday, the grey weight of sadness presses ever more strenuously on hearts that were already sagging to begin with. Nothing sounds the same. The happy Christmas songs are annoying and the sad ones are unbearable. Nothing looks the same. This is our first year putting the tree up without Steve’s help. The kids and I went out one morning and picked the first one we saw. We decorated it with the same lovely ornaments we use every year. Everything is the same on that tree, but it still doesn’t look very beautiful to me. It’s not ugly…it’s just not happy. The gifts are wrapped and it’s only the 3rd, and I think my kids will like what I picked out – but none of them feel special or exciting to me. I’ve never been this way before, but this year I am the girl who cannot find the magic in Christmas songs, décor or gifts. If I didn’t know better, I would call me the Grinch.
But the thing is: I really am loving Christmas 2011. The real Christmas. I am leaning in hard to the Christmas story…reading it every day in every gospel and every version. And at the center of that story: Christ came. He came to those who were sad. Broken. Needy beyond belief. Isaiah says He came to those “sitting in darkness”. Not a lot of fa-la-la-ing in the world when He showed up. It’s for the hurting that He came and the gift in our stocking was His death in exchange for our lives. All these trimmings that accompany the season of celebrating His arrival? We invented them. And they’re not bad, but they’re also not the point. I’m realizing that Christmas feels especially sad to me when I subconsciously make it about something else. I love all the beauty and the family and the music – but that stuff cannot carry me through this season of sorrow. It’s not big enough. His coming, however, and the awareness that He alone was born that man no more may die – in and of itself brings soul-deep joy. Contentment. Peace-in-the-midst-of-this-storm. The main thing is Jesus. The rest comes and goes.
If you are sad this Christmas, it might be tempting to try to ignore the season altogether. But may I suggest instead that you do the opposite? Move into the very center of it. Stand for a moment – not around a perfectly decked Christmas tree – but at the foot of the manger and look again at that tiny baby. Can you even believe it? There He is. Born for you. Born for us. For our sin and sadness and our breakdowns in the middle of department stores (oh wait, is that just me?) He is joy, and at the heart of His story is fullness of joy….especially for those who grieve.
Because of Jesus,