All you have to do is get out of bed in the morning to be reminded that Christmas is upon us. Between the mail, TV, radio, decorations, and heavy traffic...you can't miss it. While many will mark the season with great joy, many others will not. This post is for those who feel a deep ache as Christmas approaches. It is intended to be an encouraging reminder that Christmas means hope, especially in the most desperate of times. The week of Thanksgiving through the week following Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. The community, music, weather, food and even the traffic...I love it all. And I love the hope that we have because of Christmas. Not hope because of the season or the holiday itself. But because of the event that Christmas is meant to remind us of. Not the specific event of the manager, but the transformation that took place as a result.
Culturally, Christmas is a time of great excitement, joy, and community.
But what about those who don't feel cheerful this Christmas? What about the people who are hurting or lonely? The people who don't have a family to celebrate with and buy presents for? Is Christmas any less merry or joyful for them?
Recently, my heart has been especially heavy for these friends.
"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them." (Luke 1:68, NIV)
On Christmas Eve of my freshman year of college, I asked God to "open my eyes" to what Christmas really was. It was a quick breathe of a prayer and then I forgot about it. The next morning I stood at the table with my family and asked if I could read a couple verses before we started our Christmas morning traditions. "Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and redeemed His people" (Luke 1:68, NLT). In a sudden and unexpected moment, the Lord answered my little prayer from the night before and I couldn't even finish the next verse. It was as if the truth, power and immensity of Christmas flashed before me and I got it - for the first time. For the first time, I really understood and knew what it meant and how incredible it was. I cried and put the Bible down.
He CAME here. He walked, ate, breathed, laughed, and cried with us. It is such an intimate picture. He didn't work from a distance through some third party. He came. And then, He REDEEMED. He took the pain of this broken world and entered into it, making a way for hope again. He made a way for peace and joy in the midst of terrible suffering. And He did it all because of His immense LOVE for us.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." -Jesus (Matthew 5:3-4, NIV)
Jesus CAME here and walked, ate, breathed, laughed and cried with us...and He did those things with the people that the religious people turned down. He came for the brokenhearted. He came for the lonely. He came for the imperfect. He came for the hopeless.
He came so that in our most desperate places, we would have hope. We have hope because this is not the whole picture. We have hope because only a God who truly loves us would sacrifice everything to be with us. We have hope because He will enter into those dark places we find ourselves in. We have hope because Christmas reminds us that we are never abandoned and we are always loved. And we have hope because Christmas reminds us that the story is so much bigger than what we can see.
We hurt. He sees it. We lean into Him. He enters in and restores our broken hearts. We find ourselves peaceful for reasons that cannot be expressed with words.
To my friends who are hurting, lonely or desperate this Christmas - be encouraged. This day means that there is hope. You are loved, wanted, and never abandoned.
May your Christmas be filled with the peace that flows out of the knowledge that God loves you and His heart is for you.