Christmas is the time to be merry. Count your blessings. Sing carols, eat pies and banish darkness.
But what if you’re not feeling it? What if you’re depressed? Or lonely? Overwhelmed by the prospect of another week, let alone year? What if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one or coming to terms with sickness? Dreading the prospect of time with family? Or far from those you long to have near?
What does Christmas say to these people? What does Christmas say to us?
Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
Jesus doesn’t come as a bonus extra to those who are essentially fine but like to sing carols. He is the light that comes in the darkness. Think about the context of his birth – not a cosy and untouched Hobbit-style hamlet. A stinking stable. And beyond the stable, a little town, united in the worst sort of grief:
“weeping and wailing in Ramah (Matt 2:18)”
Why? Because right across Bethlehem, Herod has massacred any babies that might threaten his rule – and the town is gathered, not around the turning on of Christmas lights, but scores of empty cradles.
Herod tries to blame Jesus for the people’s suffering – but Jesus is their hope. Even though he tries to extinguish it, the radiance of this child fills the whole earth. And it’s a light that shines today.
So when we’re not feeling it – how does knowing Jesus help?
- suffering doesn’t mean God has left us. It’s often where we know Him most. If God led His son into the wilderness, we can expect to go there too. But because Jesus has gone ahead of us and is with us in it, we’re not overwhelmed. We know that He will help us. and we know that He is leading us to a spacious place.
- whether or not you feel it, by keeping going and keeping hoping, you are doing brilliantly. God is proud of you. He loves you. And just standing is more than enough for now.
- He puts us in family. Church family. It’s tempting at times like this to withdraw or isolate yourself -but please don’t. Talk to a trusted friend. Keep putting yourself in the way of gospel truths – singing, Scripture, prayer, small groups. Christmas can put a huge strain on natural family relationships – but even if these are a disappointment or source of grief, you’ve got another home where you are always welcome and always belong.
- we can pour out our hearts to Him because He cares for us. Isaiah 53 reminds us of how He suffers on our behalf. And the Psalms are models for how we come to Him with all our feelings. So if you can’t pray, why not make one of these your prayer? (e.g: Psalm 88) – and let Jesus carry you into the throne room.
- we know we’re not on our own – and our emotions are not a sign of lack of faith or some sort of spiritual failing. Think about Jeremiah or Elijah, begging God to let them die. He doesn’t – and He won’t leave us either.
- if we’re feeling guilty about the past or hopeless about the future, we go back to the cross. There we lay our sins at the feet of Jesus – and look up to the God who is no longer in the tomb, but reigning at His Father’s right hand, and preparing a place for us too.