A Different Christmas

On a chilly December day many years ago, we took our young children to see a living nativity.  The nativity included a number of sheep, a donkey, and people dressed as Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. A well-swaddled doll served as a stand-in for baby Jesus, tucked in the manger and surrounded by hay.  Our little daughter walked up close to the manger, looked at the baby, and began to sing, “Away in a Manger.”  The sweet innocence of that moment still touches me and reminds me of the joy of that long-ago Christmas outing.

The calendar, the churches, the stores, music, and decorations all tell us long before the actual day that Christmas is coming.  The messages come loudly and often that we should be cheerful and embrace the joy of the season.  For many, however, this may have been a year that was far from joyful.  Challenges with family dynamics, job loss, financial stressors, a move, the loss of a friend or loved one (maybe both) can come together and make it a “blue” Christmas for this group that is quietly suffering.  What to do?  Our feelings are real, as are those of others.  If we are looking forward to Christmas, and are wrapping up a year of many positives, this may be a chance to bring Christ to someone who is hurting.  Can we invite someone to our home who might otherwise be alone?  Can we visit them if they are not comfortable being with a group this year?  Can we reach out to a friend who is jobless and take that person to coffee or lunch?  Can we watch more closely for that person who seems sad, lonely, or hurt, and make a point of greeting them, and giving them the gift of time?  Perhaps we can send a note of support and acknowledgment of the fact that this is a different season for them this year. 

On the other hand, you may be in the group of people who anticipate a blue Christmas this year, where your loss or sadness will be magnified by the joy of those around you.  You may want to seek out a blue Christmas gathering that is held just for that purpose: to support those who are struggling in this Christmas season.  Or you may choose to connect with a trusted friend, a counselor or a pastor: someone you can trust and confide in who will be helpful and supportive during this difficult time.  There are no simple formulas for such a Christmas season, yet we know that God sees the suffering along with the joy, and he sits with us there and loves us.   “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names.” (Psalm 147 V3-4)

 As Christmas approaches, let’s take time out from all of the preparation, the noise, and the activity, to quiet our hearts.  We can take ourselves to that baby in the manger, the light of the world, who brought God’s love into the world and changed it forever. 

“And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.”(Luke 2 V7).