In case my previous posts weren’t obvious enough, this has been a challenging Christmas for me. It is in no way the worst Christmas ever (see last Friday’s post for details on that one), but this year has been a heavier, more somber holiday season. As I’ve shared my heart these last couple of weeks, I see that many out there are in a similar place. It can be intimidating to share openly about feeling sadness in a season that is all about being merry and bright. I half expected an angry mob of folks in Christmas sweaters (and not the intentionally ugly kind) to come hunting me down to shut down my Scrooge-like sentiments. Yet, instead, I’ve had person after person share about how they’ve resonated with these Advent posts about waiting and darkness.
Clearly I’ve hit a nerve (in the best sense).
As much as we try to gather up all the last remnants of joy and cheer, many of us are entering this Christmas season with heavy burdens of grief, disappointment, and confusion. For some these experiences may be for this year only, but for others, deep losses make Christmas a consistently challenging time of year. Is there space for these feeling during Christmas?
I’ve been surprised by the peace I feel being in a somber place this holiday. Leaning into Advent has brought about an unexpected gift: space for my questions, my sadness, and my longings. I don’t have to set these feelings aside to be present. Instead, each one is welcome at the table (Matthew 11:28-30). Which also means that I don’t have to spend every moment wallowing in misery this season. Because there are times when you turn on the TV and “Elf” has just started. It’s a Christmas miracle! These moments of delight are welcome too.
And yet, watching “Elf” on repeat will not erase my pain.
So, I enter Christmas truthfully, comforted by the fact that the Lord holds these tensions in my hearts, and that I am not alone. We are not alone. The more we share honestly about our Christmas tensions, the more we see how many are feeling similarly. I have felt known as I hear other share truthfully about their experiences. It’s that moment of relief, when you exhale and say, “Oh, I’m not the only one who feels this way…Maybe I’m not crazy/mean/apathetic.”
And then the sadness isn’t quite as lonely of a place.
-What are you feeling this Christmas? Sad? Angry? Joyful? Disappointed? Hopeful? All of the above? Take a moment to share this honestly with Jesus. How does he receive your feelings?
-Is there a person in your life whom you could share these feelings with? Who might be a safe person for you?
-Amidst the varying emotions you have this year, is there a deeper longing in your heart? What is your heart hoping (or struggling to hope) for this Christmas? Take a moment to let God know about the deep longings within.