In these final days before Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of all the last-minute preparations. There’s baking to be finished, cleaning to be done, that one final gift to purchase, parties to attend . . . or maybe there isn’t.
Instead of rushing about to plan and celebrate, you may be experiencing the crushing loneliness of the absence of all those things. Maybe your Christmas is silent.
There’s a host of reasons why Christmas can seem anything but a joyous celebration of laughter and cheer. While goodwill toward men may still be in your heart, any number of events could have occurred which have caused it to be partnered alongside grief or anger. All one needs do is read the latest headlines to see that tragedy is still alive and well at Christmas time. There are places where peace on earth seems to have surrendered to chaos. Where joy has been crushed by sadness. Where the shadow of death hovers and the silence of a loved one’s absence weighs heavy. Maybe that place is within the four corners of your own home.
Christmas may seem a glaring reminder of the unfairness of it all. How can you celebrate togetherness when there is none? When everywhere you look seems just one more reason to shake your fist at heaven and ask the age-old question: “Why?”
I wish I had the answer for you, friend. I really do. But I can’t explain away the hurt. I can’t rationalize my way through your pain. I can only join you in your tears and pray for grace to carry you.
While celebrating Christmas may be extremely difficult for you to navigate this year, I can’t help but think that Christmas is still for you because Christmas is for those who grieve.
Christmas is for those who grieve.
Concerning the Messiah’s coming, the prophet Isaiah foretold: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
The darkness of grief cannot stand forever before the Light of the world shining into its midst.
Zechariah also prophesied of the Lord’s comfort concerning Christ’s birth: Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. — Luke 1:78-79
Sometimes we neglect to remember that the Savior of the world was born into it.
The Messiah was born into an oppressive world at war, where babies are murdered and women are raped and men strike each other down in battle as power struggles carry on and on. He came to a grieving world. This was Jesus’ present-day life. This is where He purposefully stepped into humanity.
But the King of kings did not come in royal garb with a strong arm to conquer and overthrow, at least not in the ways one might expect:
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down.
And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins!
But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s path to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all . . .
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush Him and cause Him grief.
Yet when His life is made an offering for sin, He will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
And the Lord’s good plan will prosper in His hands.
When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish, He will be satisfied.
And because of His experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous,
For He will bear all their sins.
(from Isaiah 53:2-6,10-11, emphasis mine)
The Divinity of heaven stepped into an unremarkable human form to be with us in the darkness, and was hated for it. He cocooned Himself in our grief and hopelessness, shrouded His holiness with our shame, and bore all the penalty for our rebellion, yet His acts of kindness were despised. He was beaten and killed for crimes He didn’t commit, all because He is deeply committed to us. Most of the world turned their backs as if His sacrifice was a small token instead of receiving it as the grand gesture of grace amazing.
If we stopped here in the story of the Messiah, hopelessness would have the upper hand. But as we read in Isaiah 53:11, that is not the end of God’s story: When He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish, He will be satisfied. And because of His experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for He will bear all their sins.
Though the amount of suffering endured by Jesus was astounding, He deemed the reward worth it. He deemed your grief worth bearing. All because he deemed you worthy of His presence.
What will you do with this gracious gift?
I pray you will invite Jesus into your Christmas. That you will make room for the Savior alongside your grief. It’s okay if it might be a bit crowded in there. He can still make Himself at home because, after all, He and grief are familiar with each other. And in the end, you may just find that grief moves over to allow space for Jesus to get more comfortable. Even if it takes a little longer than you’d like. Our Lord is patient, and He can settle down in cramped places for a season until He is able to stretch out more cozily.
I hope this Christmas you make plans for a special visitor. Even in the silence. Even with the tears. Prepare a room for the Savior to come, and invite Him to stay for an extended visit.
After all, this Christmas is for you.
If this Christmas season finds you in a difficult place, try something new. Instead of going with the same traditions, do a different thing. Invite someone to join you who may have experienced their own share of hardships this year, or if your community is involved in service projects for others, try getting involved in a special outreach. Most importantly, be sure to invite the presence of the Christ Child to take center stage in your heart. Even if He has to share it alongside grief.