For some of us Christmas represents one of the most heart-wrenching times of year. As it approaches there is often impending feeling of dread. The lights and jolly songs that fill the streets only increase the ache that reverberates in our hearts. Whether it is the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, difficult childhood memories, complicated family relationships, empty nest, loneliness or anything else, Christmas can bring on an overwhelming sense of sadness.
The fact that the marketing world capitalizes on Christmas plays a big part in the anguish that some experience. Everything being perfectly presented, from the icicles that are meticulously formed around store windows to the color coordinated decorations on the trees, can set the stage for a glittering mirage that appears to bring happiness. Tremendous amounts of monies are invested each year to create the illusion of the merriment and joy that surround the holiday season. The media is filled with jubilant people and perfect life scenarios. However, some of us will be facing great heartache at this time, and there will be no way of escaping the disappointment of not matching up to the expectations displayed all around us?
Feeling like we are being herded along like cattle through the holidays is more like our common experience. We go along with cultural agendas because that’s all we have known. Plus, because heartache takes its toll, it leaves us feeling depleted and unable to do anything else but go through the motions. Yet, this is the antithesis of what Christmas is really all about. In reality the birth of Christ marks a turning point in history where rote performance takes the back seat to the good news of God’s amazing grace. Commercialism has a way of making us slaves to tradition and expectations, but for those who are hurting there is a new opportunity…an awakening of sweet simplicity.
Tips for the hurting
Sometimes a fresh perspective can take the edge off or refocus our heart. Here are a few tips for those that might be struggling with the holiday blues:
1. Don’t let “dread” become your mind set. It’s easy to enter the season with anticipations of disaster, yet this can set us up for depression and anxiety. We can help defuse this by limiting expectations, both good and bad. Instead take each day as it comes.
2. Don’t be afraid to do something different. Get a few friends or family members together and do something whimsical. Maybe head to the movies on Christmas Day. Do not allow yourself to feel pressured — the lights don’t have to be on the house this year. It’s okay to take a break.
3. Lean on your support system. Let your trusted community know that this is a difficult season for you. Having people who will pray with you through the holidays is a great comfort.
4. Reach out and serve someone else. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit a nursing home. Blessing others is always a gift to yourself in the long run and reorients your perspective.
5. Take the opportunity this year to reestablish what Christmas truly means to you. Read and meditate on the scripture verses that tell of the birth of Christ.
Remember the true meaning
Remember the reality of Christmas is found not in fantasies that quickly fade at season’s end but in the lasting hope of the greatest gift being brought to earth despite circumstances and conditions. Imagine how it must have felt for Mary and Joseph to be alone, cold and turned away because there was no room for the imminent birth of their baby except a humble stable. They were surrounded by bugs, animals, noise and smell as Mary labored into the night bearing great pangs of childbirth. This is what the very first Christmas Eve looked like. There were no strands of flashing lights, only stars twinkling in the brisk cool skies above and angels singing to shepherds in distant fields.
Just as there was no room at the Inn back then, so often it goes today. Many are busy about the business of Christmas, leaving little room for its true meaning. This season we can cultivate a sacred space in our hearts as we reckon ourselves co-joined with a divinely different heritage. We will become strengthened, pondering the joy of this baby who is now Savior of our soul. The world may prove to be a cold and unwelcoming place, even amongst shimmering tinsel and garland, yet there will always be room at His family gathering.
This year make yourself a cup of hot chocolate, turn on some Christmas music and snuggle up in your favorite corner with Bible in hand. Ask God to reveal the birth of Christ to your heart in a new way and take heart as you consider these words afresh: “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ The Lord’ ” (Luke 2:9-11).
Paula Masters is the author of “Exceptional Bloom: Coming Alive After Fifty” and the founder of True Source Ministries, an online ministry to hurting women, found at tsmwomen.org. She stays connected with her readers on her “Over Fifty And Fabulous” facebook page and online at OverFiftyandFab.com.