We are told that this is the most joyous holiday of the year. But for many, Advent and Christmas conjure feelings of sorrow.
For most of us, we have magical Christmas memories from our childhood. The bright colored lights filled us with wonder, the sweetness of hot chocolate and candy delighted our senses, and the joy of that long-desired gift made us cheer. Of course we get older and we hopefully outgrow the childish self-centered notions of what makes Christmas special. But sometimes we throw out the baby with the bathwater. Once we leave childhood, we can focus on the burden of the season: writing Christmas cards, decorating, shopping, wrapping, traveling, etc.
On top of that, as we get older, Christmas fills some of us with a sense of loss. I lost my grandparents one year after another, both in December. This year will be the third Christmas without my mom with us. The happy memories of before can sometimes act like phantom pain to remind us of what we have lost.
Or maybe some of us have never had the good childhood memories nor the holiday companionship as an adult. Christmas is a time to be with family and friends. If those things are absent from our lives, that ache can feel overwhelming. It is even more upsetting because we are told to be happy when we feel sad.
So what are we to do?
First of all, please remember that you have little control over how you feel. Feelings can be affected by the strangest, most random of things. Sometimes we feel guilty about feeling down during the holidays. You don’t have to. It is only a problem if we use our sadness as an excuse to rain on the parade of everyone else. When we are feeling down, the joy of others can feel like an annoyance. There is a temptation to drag them down to where we are. This doesn’t mean that we have to put on a fake joy. Be real with the people you love. But even in those moments, search for all the reasons that you should be happy. Even if you don’t feel it, acknowledging your blessings will help you in how you interact with others.
But something to keep in mind is that this sadness and emptiness may not be a bad thing. Very often, this time of year is filled with every kind of activity and planning that the most important things get pushed aside.
It is important to remember the first Christmas. Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. There are many deep spiritual reasons for this that are worthy of reflection. But let us also remember the immediate practical reason. It wasn’t because the stable was picturesque or cheap or comfortable or symbolic or traditional.
Christ was born in a stable because it was empty.
Every other dwelling in Bethlehem was too full to let the Lord Christ enter in. So He entered into the one place where there was room.
During the holidays, take a moment and reflect: what is filling up you heart and soul. Are you primarily worried about errands, wrapping, travel, decorating, cooking, family drama, etc.? It is natural that we should spend time thinking about these things and doing the little business of the season. But if they fill up our hearts too much, where is there room for Christ to enter?
Maybe the sadness and emptiness some of us feel at Christmas is God’s way of helping us let go of some of these things. And even though we complain about all of the work of Christmas, it is difficult to let it go. And when we lose people we love, that emptiness is most profoundly felt. But God will never allow an emptiness in your heart without filling it with something better. He is waiting to give you the greatest Christmas present: His presence in your heart. This will fill you with radiant joy greater than the childlike magic of our childhood.
This Christmas, if you feel that sense of emptiness, don’t think that God has abandoned you or that Christmas has lost its joy.
You are the empty stable waiting for Christ to be born in you.
Copyright 2019, WL Grayson