I know not everyone has a Merry Christmas. I keep thinking of friends who are ill or mourning a loved one lost this year, or those whose loved ones are many miles away.
I have had a few not so merry and bright Christmases. I think the worst was when my college student son’s reserve unit was activated to Bosnia just days before Christmas. It was my first Christmas without one of my children and of course, I was worried sick about his safety and how would he cope with being away from home for Christmas.
Going to the mall to finish up my shopping was like an obstacle course. All those bright and sparkly decorations certainly did not match my mood that year. I was deeply, deeply sad. I remember seeing a young mother with her little boy, and the memories that evoked for me, just as the speakers began to play , “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Yeah. I just had to get out of there and go sit in my car and cry.
Every sweetly familiar Christmas song made me cry. As much as I love Christmas, that year I could not wait for all the, “Merry and Bright” to go away. However, I still had two daughters at home who were also struggling and I knew I needed to try and have a nice Christmas for them. I actually felt like I had to show my daughters some kind of example of how a woman handles her own sadness in the midst of other’s joy. I certainly did not want my sadness to carry over onto other people’s joy either. I didn’t know how to do that, and all I could do was pray for wisdom and for courage.
That hard Christmas taught me something invaluable and it carries me through every Christmas since. When you strip away all the tinsel and Fa-La-La-La-La, all that you are left with is a baby in a manger.
The scriptures (Isaiah 61 and Luke 4) tell us that He came, not only to take away the sins of the world, but to heal the broken hearted and to comfort those who mourn. That’s where I found the true meaning and heart of Christmas. He came so that I could have a resource beyond myself to enable me to not only endure that very hard season of my life, but to find some joy in the midst of my sadness.
Under the Bridge
We were in Indonesia a few years ago and visited a group of people who live, “Under the Bridge” It was like a highway over pass but there were rooms under a ceiling barely five feet high. It was on the bank of a polluted river full of floating garbage. It smelled terrible. I saw a rat run along a wall. There were whole families and many children living there. It broke my heart! We were there to observe the work the local believers were doing to help these people.
There was an elderly woman who lived in one of these tiny rooms under the bridge. She had a sleeping mat, a pail for a latrine and a small stash of personal belongings. On the wall was a picture of Jesus. She pointed to the picture and said, “I have Jesus. I have everything.” In that moment, in that place, her words were some of the most profound I had ever heard spoken.
Our trip to Indonesia was years after that first hard Christmas for me but what she said, what I saw there, and learned there just confirmed the truth I learned that Christmas my son was in Bosnia.
I have had a lot of Christmases without all my children since then. I, like you, have endured hard seasons, whether at Christmas or in the middle of the summer! Life is hard sometimes, but He came to give us all we would need to endure these difficult times.
Although you may be hurting and broken this Christmas, although you may be alone, I hope you too come to the realization this dear woman did and that I did also.
I have Jesus. I have everything.