A Letter To Those Grieving at Christmastime, Part 2
In the Bible, John’s telling of the coming of Jesus gives us a refreshing narrative.
Gone is the telling of stars and mangers and shepherds, and in its place, a powerful word picture that wonderfully summarizes what it is to understand the nativity of Jesus.
John begins by saying, “In the beginning the Word already existed,” meaning, before anything filled the emptiness that was to become life on earth, God was there. Then, a few verses later he writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” This reminds us that Jesus does something remarkable and transformative to empty, dark places. Where Jesus is invited in, we are not alone or without hope.
Here’s a simple list of 5 things to keep in mind if you are having a blue Christmas:
1. Our darkness can’t extinguish God’s light.
No matter how deep into despair you’ve gone, this is no dark place that cannot be changed by the presence of Jesus, who acts as light does. Any attempts by darkness to overcome you are futile when we allow Jesus to shine in, so to speak. Keep your holiday simple, and focused on the hope of Jesus that is present and available.
2. Christmas isn’t perfect.
I was raised in southern Indiana where Christmases were more likely to be grey and rainy than white and snowy. Yet, I was convinced that the proper yuletide spirit could only be obtained through the presence of snow. Where did I get that idea? I got it from my favorite Christmas tunes, of course.
There’s nothing wrong with Christmas music. In fact, I dearly love it. But, it can create some false expectations in our mind as to what the Advent season should provide.
You see, Christmas was never perfect. The whole nativity story is replete with difficult situations. However, the plan was always perfect. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us; hope has arrived.
3. Christmas is about a gift.
John transitions our thoughts from Christmas as a story of a physical birth, to the greater truth that Christmas is about rebirth. When we allow Jesus to be Lord, we receive a new birth that only God can provide.
In your moments of mulling your greatest loss, remember that it cannot compare to the greater gain of this precious gift we were given when Jesus arrived.
4. Christmas is for us, but it’s not about us.
As a pastor, I discovered that the greatest conflict arrived in churches when people couldn’t get their way. It’s so easy to believe that the stuff of church and Christianity is about perpetuating things we like. In fact, that’s a lie the enemy likes to plant into our hearts.
Though this may sound harsh (OK, so it is!), but much of our hurt and pain comes because we want to have things our way, instead of the way they are. And this makes perfect sense.
So, when Christmas doesn’t happen the way we want it to happen, we slip into depression.
The only solution I know is to come face to face with the reality that while Jesus came for the world - including me - it was never about me. This is a hard truth that’s but worthy of our reflection.
5. Christmas is about revelations.
Jesus came to reveal God to us. John hammers that point home, and it is the ultimate vision statement for Christmas.
Truth was revealed to Mary, to Joseph, to shepherds, some really smart guys, and even to a baby in a womb.
The traditional patterns of celebrating Advent call us into anticipation. What are we looking forward to? The revelation of God himself.
Whatever brings us to our lowest moment can never erase the fact that the very maker of the universe has been revealed to us, and we have been invited into His family. We have a seat at his table, even if ours is empty. I guess that means that our table is never really empty.
May God bless you with a glorious Christmas not because the decorative lights are so thrilling, but because the light of the world has come and shattered your darkness.