I LOVE Christmas. All of it. The decorations, the music, the lights, the traditions, the gatherings. I love the time with family and friends. I love Christmas Eve services and all the carols that lead up to it. I am one of those people that starts listening to Christmas music in November and will put up our tree as early as I can. It is my favourite time of year. I feel like there is almost a “magic” in the air – strangers are friendlier and greet one another on the streets and smile and look one another in the eye. It’s beautiful!
While Christmas sparks joy in me, the Christmases that I have felt God closest to me were actually the Christmases that were marked with grief. There have been a couple of Christmas seasons when the lights did not make me smile, the shopping felt empty, and the music felt trite. My heart ached, and I wondered how to navigate through this “happy time of year” when I was just plain sad. Those were the years that God highlighted to me that He entered a messy world – and that He came to meet me IN the grief, not despite it. I did not have to hide my pain from Him, in fact, the more honest I was with Him about my grief, the closer He felt. In some ways, it was during those grief-filled Christmases, that I really came to understand the power of the story – God breaking into our world to be with us, walk with us,
love on us – God with us – Emmanuel.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Jesus arrived in a barn – in the mess of our world. He can handle the mess of grief and pain, and invites us to bring it all to Him. We may feel the need to put on a smile for social functions, but before our God, we get to come to Him JUST AS WE ARE – excited, confused, sad, fearful, or joyful.
After going through my own Christmas seasons of grief, I am more aware that this time of year is not easy and happy for everyone. I ask God to point me to people who need a bit of joy or hope released. Or just someone with whom they can be honest.
May we all hear the invitation to bring our authentic selves before God this Christmas. And to hear His message of joy and peace and hope. And as carriers of that hopeful message, we get to invite others around us to do the same. Emmanuel. God with us.
Written by Janine Armstrong