Perhaps the reason why Christmas time is "special" is because, for some reason or other, everything seems more intense at Christmas. We spend more, eat more, take off work days. Being in love at Christmas is more romantic. We appreciate our families and the blessings we have that much more at Christmas.
But this intensity has a flip side as well. Christmas time also intensifies pain and suffering. To be sick or care for those who are is more depressing at Christmas. To be separated from loved ones at this time is especially difficult. To lose one we love at this time seems to bring the pain back year after year. Loneliness at Christmas time is almost unbearable. This is why the rate of suicide calls and psychological trauma is so high at this time of year.
I believe that all of us at one time or another have enjoyed the good side of this holiday and came away feeling happy for the fun and satisfaction we have experienced. However, if you have experienced a recent loss and the intensity of the season serves only to increase the hurt you may be feeling, I want to remind you of a few things to help ease that pain:
1. The world may have forgotten you, but God has not
When we are first injured or abandoned, everyone seems to be there to offer help and encouragement, but after a while their life goes on and the support they provide seems to dry up. It is usually at this moment that we feel the full impact of our hurt and loneliness and usually the time we really could use the attention we were getting at the beginning. Christmas makes the situation worse because it seems everyone else has what they need and want except us. We need to remember that there is no season for God's love and care. David says,
God is our shelter and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble…
the Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:1,7)
God is not distracted by the celebrations of men, His attention is always focused on our needs and suffering.
2. Suffering, like all thing in this life, is only temporary
Christmas intensifies our loneliness, our pain, our depression but it does not lengthen it. Many lose hope because they mistakenly think that the way they feel at this time will last forever. Both the good and the bad that the holiday season produces will only last for a time (That is why they call it a season).
We need to remember that life is a mixture of good and bad and that most of us will experience both sooner or later. The only thing that lasts forever is our soul and the wise person usually focuses on maintaining a good relationship with God through the good and the bad. It is not so much how long the good or bad lasts or how intense it is: it is if we remain faithful to God during the good and the bad that counts.
3. It is okay to smile
Some people like to grieve…for the dead, for their past mistakes, for the bad things going on. There is safety and comfort in grieving. You know how you should act. You do not have to make as much of an effort. It is one way of getting and keeping attention. You do not have to deal with the future; you can live in the past.
Christmas seems to trigger the grieving cycle in people. In order to break this cycle we need to remember what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3:1,
There is a time for every event under heaven…
There is a time for grieving and there is a time to stop grieving. It is helpful to remember not to confuse the times for grieving and the times for rejoicing. Christmas, it's meaning, the way it is celebrated, is a time for rejoicing. It is okay to give ourselves the permission to smile, to rejoice, to feel happiness when the occasion calls for it.
For example, my mother, Jane, became a widow at 42 years of age and died when she was 85. She never remarried; all those years alone. She had only one son, me, and I lived far away from her for many years. At Christmas however, she always chose to smile. She lived alone but always had a tree and decorations and gifts and made a special meal, even when she was in a retirement home.
Not always, but many times happiness is a choice of how we will feel. Maybe the best gift you can give yourself this Christmas is the freedom to smile again without guilt
Of course I would be remiss if I did not remind all of us that the original reason why Christmas is meant to be a time of happiness and joy. The event of Jesus' birth is the main theme for much of the rejoicing at this time of year, but that is only half the story.
His birth was significant because it put into motion God's plan to save mankind. Jesus did not remain a baby, He grew into a man and as a man He performed miracles, spoke God's Word, was ultimately crucified and then 3 days later was raised from the dead by the power of God. All of this was done to prove that He was the Son of God and that faith in Him expressed in repentance and baptism would result in eternal life for His followers.
The joy we feel at Christmas is really only a prelude and taste of the joy that Christians will experience in heaven one day.
So as we enter this season, let us remember that:
- God has not and will not forget us
- Our sadness, like all things good or bad, is only temporary
- Happiness is based more on a decision than a feeling
And finally, above all things let us remember that the ultimate Christmas gift awaits those who believe and obey Jesus Christ. God bless you and Merry Christmas.