“It just doesn’t feel like Christmas with all this going on.”
I nodded as my friend shared her struggles and hurts. I understood.
Reality doesn’t take a holiday. And as if the weight of our struggles wasn’t already heavy enough, in comes Christmas with all its “merry” magnifying the frustration of hard circumstances that refuse to fall in line with our well-laid plans for Christmas cheer.
If we’re honest, my friend’s frustrated sentiment can be more common than the warm, fuzzy feelings we so long for at Christmas. As much as we try to keep them out, the painful realities of life have a way of intruding on our hopes and holiday plans like an unwelcome visitor at a special event. They have the potential to ruin everything.
And pain can ruin Christmas. If your Christmas is the Pinterest kind.
The kind of Christmas that gets its inspiration from holiday magazines arriving in the mail like unsolicited advice. Or the kind of Christmas that remembers only the good of years past and none of the reality. The kind of Christmas that’s willing to sacrifice peace of mind and body to create “post-worthy” scenes. Yes, painful realities will ruin that kind of Christmas in a weary heartbeat.
But there’s a different Christmas. It’s a Christmas that ruins pain.
The Christmas that begins with a cry and a cold night and ends with a roar, a stone rolled, and a vanquished enemy.
The Christmas that saw my pain and yours and didn’t look away but instead said, “Enough.” And started a rescue mission.
The Christmas that robbed death, life’s greatest pain, of its sting and replaced it with a certain hope and constant comfort that quiets all our temporary fears and pains like a mother’s gentle hush.
I watched the sunrise this morning. As lovely as a clear day is, cloudy days make for the best sunrises. The light reflects off the clouds, changing as the earth turns to face the sun.
On a clear day, the brightness makes me look away. But on cloudy days, the clouds reveal the sun’s glory in such a way that I can watch for minutes on end.
This is Christmas.
The clouds of sin and pain threatened to block out the light forever. But because of love . . .
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Our painful realities are the conflict in the glorious story of Christmas. Without conflict, there is no plot. And without the inescapable reality of pain, Christmas is nothing more than an expensive and exhausting delusion.
If you’re struggling with fear, sorrow, illness, depression, overwhelm, rejection, or any of the many manifestations of life’s hard realities, let me lighten your burden with this truth:
Your pain is a perfect fit for Christmas.
Just as the clouds become the Artist’s medium revealing the glory of the sun, your pain has the potential to reveal the love, light, and hope of your Father in a glorious reality that rivals the most post-worthy picture.
But like the sunrise, this revelation is found in secret, quiet, dark, and seemingly lonely places. Painful places. Places that beckon us to look beyond the obvious and loudness of the season and ask for more than clear days and fuzzy feelings.
Our cries in the dark reach heaven, and heaven answers.
Emmanuel. God with us.
It feels like Christmas.
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