Christmas is a time of great joy and celebration. The lights, decorations, parties, gifts and festivities make this a time of year that people look forward to. But it is also one of the toughest times of the year for people who have experienced loss. Finding hope at Christmas can be a lonely journey for some.
The loss of a loved one, divorce, job loss, a difficult health issue or financial struggles. These things can bring us down at any time of year. But, sadly, these experiences seem to be ten times harder in December. Why is that? Because the pain of losing a loved one seems amplified when you can no longer share in the celebrations with that person. Because the loss of a job doesn’t just threaten our financial security, it can also hinder us from being able to participate in the festivities. Our hopes and expectations for the joy, togetherness and good times we look forward to at Christmas might even seem to be dashed to the ground.
Finding hope in love poured out.
As I was driving to church this past Sunday it occurred to me that, while we do go through hard times in life (I certainly have), the celebration of Christmas should be one of the most uplifting times to face hardships. Ultimately, Christmas isn’t about buying gifts, seeing Christmas lights and going out on the town with friends. It’s about the love God poured out for us through the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s about finding hope for eternal life with God. And that life that will be free of the hardships of this present world.
My pastor, Michael Brown, put it this way: The lights and gifts and festivities that we’ve come to know as part of Christmas are just a shadow of the priceless gift Jesus Christ has already given us – “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Consider that we put so much hope in the gifts and celebrations that we forget about the gift we have already received. The gift in Jesus Christ, the greatest miracle of all, is the real reason for celebration.
Christ came to be among us and walk beside us..
So, if you’re facing a difficult season right now, please know that I’m not suggesting you ignore the pain. I believe we need to give ourselves permission to grieve. We need to process our feelings in times of loss. Even Jesus wept (John 11:35) when he saw his friend Lazarus lying dead – and Jesus knew he was about to bring Lazarus back to life (John 11:43-44)! He didn’t avoid the pain. He felt it, he expressed it, and then he performed a great miracle!
We need people who can walk alongside us in our pain. We need Jesus to comfort us in our grief and hardships. But, praise God that we find hope in knowing that pain doesn’t have the final say (2 Corinthians 4:17)! This Christmas, I pray that your focus is dominated by the gift of God in Christ Jesus. May you find the hope of Christmas and experience joy in knowing you are part of the family of Jesus Christ, destined for eternal life with our King!