Someone recently asked me if I didn’t find the holiday season just a little depressing. I actually don’t. I know that some people do, and I understand that the reasons behind that fact are as varied as the people who feel those feelings. Some people miss friends or relatives they have lost, and they feel that loss more during the holiday season. Failures, disappointments, tensions, financial woes and old skeletons seem to become magnified during the holidays for some.
People everywhere tell us to have a “Merry” Christmas, or for those too politically correct to voice it that way still wish us, “Happy” Holidays. It can be a lot of pressure to make good on those wishes for merriment and happiness. We are expected to feel so much joy during this season, and for some, that joy is hard to muster up.
Most of us think that our Christmases should look like a Saturday Evening Post scene, and anything less is just… less. We have pictures in our minds of perfect decorations, loads of presents under the tree, and families gathered around sharing smiles, eggnog and carols. Lots of times those scenes are far from what we experience in reality, and it’s when our reality comes face to face with our fiction that our troubles begin.
We look at our own holiday scene and see pieces missing. Broken relationships leave someone out of our picture at the holidays. Financial problems leave beneath the tree looking bare. There’s no time for singing carols with those we love because we over commit ourselves this time of year. Stress takes over where peace should prevail. Somewhere along the way, our Saturday Evening Post begins to look more like a scene from the Jerry Springer Show.
I know that I am fortunate to be able to find joy during the holidays. I always have. I credit my parents for consistently making this time of year special for me and my brother when we were growing up. There was a lot of “merry” in our home during the holidays. Our holidays were not lavish, but they were joyful. I still have those same feelings about this time of year now that I have a family of my own, but I have learned a thing or two about how this holiday season can be less depressing and more joyful.
We can’t expect to muck things up all year and then have an easy time of it during the holidays. Everything is magnified during this time. If we sew peace and joy into our lives during the year, then those feeling dominate during the holidays. If the year was stressful, financially, then that gets magnified as we head into this season. If relationships are strained during the year, then Christmas dinner is going to be tricky at best, relationally. It seems that we tend to reap during the holidays what we have sown all year. The good news is, a new year is just around the corner and we can try again.
But for this year, at this point, things are what they are, and realizing that our scene may look at bit more Jerry than Merry this year, going in, may help get us through what’s coming and avoid some predictable pitfalls. In the meantime, we have to find our joy in this season! I hate pithy sayings, but Jesus really is the reason for the season.
It’s not presents or lights, decorations or parties. It’s not plays or musicals, movies or goodies. It’s not even family and friends. All of those things are nice, really nice, and they help to make the season fun, but even if we have none of those things as a part of our Christmas this year, the fact remains. We celebrate this time of year in order to recognize the day that the world changed forever. God the Son, stepped out of heaven to become flesh in the form of a lowly baby. Christ left the glory of heaven to live and dwell among us… and ultimately, to die so that we might truly live.
Nothing going right or wrong in our lives can take away the truth that the world was changed for eternity the day that Joy came to the world. Because of that, we can truly celebrate life! With all its hang ups, missteps, blunders and disasters, we can still pause and celebrate the greatest story ever told. And that story? That story is a part of our story, neat or messy, peaceful or troublesome. His story is wound up in ours, tangled up so tightly we couldn’t unwind it if we tried. He is all about us. It’s why He came to us. And that’s how we find joy in the midst of pain during this season. So what’s the antidote for the Christmas blues? Hope, and that hope is found in a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Merry Christmas, everyone!