It was during a December that my family fell apart.
I do appreciate that the blow had enough grace to wait until the 27th before coming out of nowhere, but is there really ever a “good time” for such things to happen?
Anything that’s ever harmed family tends to feel highlighted, called out, by the approach of Christmas. The season has a way of reminding you of what you’ve lost (or never had to begin with). I know what it’s like to rely on the charity and love of non-family during the holidays (for which I’m very grateful), to struggle with the emotions, to feel left out of the joy because you’re dealing with things that (it seems like) nobody else is.
So I’m the last person to tell anyone to “just get over it and celebrate”.
That’s not my approach at all. The Bible defends, even celebrates, our grace-given ability to honestly approach the throne of God with our pain, fear, and disappointment. Psalms is full of it. Jeremiah vents to God even though he knows exactly why God is inflicting his nation. Even Jesus does not try to hide his sweat and blood from his Father. He cares about our hearts. He has big shoulders. He will always listen to our tears.
Sometimes, I think, there are days when a swift kick in my own butt really is warranted.
For years, I’ve held what you could describe as an annoyance towards the holidays. I loved the meaning of it all, but all that stuff – the Advent, the promise of Christ, family – can be enjoyed 365 days a year.
But it occurred to me a couple years ago that I might be seriously underballing the power of that meaning. The manger pointed to the cross. The cross pointed to the empty tomb. Victory over all suffering, and the wiping away of all tears, has been secured. It is coming. Though sorrow may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.
Does my life ever reflect that? My attitude?
I’m learning to find a balance between mourning and morning. I have come to believe that there are times for us to grieve and times to give Jesus credit for being bigger than our disappointments. Perhaps there are days – not every day, but some – when just taking a deep breath and thrusting aside the weight of the world is appropriate. Even holy.
It makes a good defense against self-pity, which grief can quickly and subtly slip into.
It makes a marvelous defense against despair, something the enemy is only too happy to twist our disappointment into.
It lifts our eyes to the horizon, to the second coming of Christ, no longer a babe in a manger but a reigning King.
Perhaps this would be a good exercise for you this season, if you find yourself cynical and bitter towards the holiday. Try taking a day and dedicating your attitude towards God’s superiority and victory over your travails. Just a day. Though he graciously accepts Where We Are, the fact remains that only the cross and the empty tomb really matter in the end. Without that, we are more to be pitied than any man. With it, we are more than conquerors. Our hope is immutable. Our God is incredible.
That’s why I bought my first Christmas tree last year, and why I will do so again this weekend.
Find solace and comfort in God. But remember also that he is bigger.