As we round the corner towards Christmas, I wish to write a post dedicated to all who feel the pressure to be happy during the festive season when they feel anything BUT happy.
There are so many reasons why festive seasons like Christmas can be a trigger for emotions other than happiness. Perhaps you experienced a deep personal loss during this time of year – whether it is a relationship that broke apart or a loved one who passed on. Perhaps you have experienced poverty and deprivation in your life and this season of excess and merry-making reminds you of the lack in your life or your inability to provide your loved ones to a level you wish you could.
Or perhaps your life is quite “normal” but you carry the pain of loneliness and contradiction within yourself. You may even have experienced what it is like to immerse yourself in the company of others, eating and drinking and celebrating to fill a void that no food or company seems to satisfy. Or maybe, you’re feeling quite ok at the moment and just really don’t like the obligatory rituals and celebrations that Christmas brings and you feel the need to put up a “good show” so that you won’t be seen as a trouble-maker or party-pooper.
While we can retrospectively and theologically speak of the joy of Christ’s birth, I wonder if we have sanitised it from the very reality God-with-us entered to be with us
I hope that you will make space for your true feelings this Christmas, and to acknowledge them frankly and accept them. Because I wish to tell you that it is perfectly alright to not feel the joy of the season. The very first Christmas was probably a harrowing time for Mary and Joseph who almost had no place to stay in Bethlehem, and who had to run for their lives and become refugees so soon after Jesus was born. While we can retrospectively and theologically speak of the joy of Christ’s birth, I wonder if we have sanitised it from the very reality Emmanuel (God-with-us) entered to be with us.
I am speaking about the reality of our sin, our brokenness, our confusion and inner-contradictions. I am speaking of the reality of family dysfunction, emotional and spiritual dysfunction, societal dysfunction and all kinds of invisible brokenness that we often feel the need to hide within us while presenting a smiling face to the world.
When our Lord Jesus Christ came into our world, He did not come to sanitise it. He came to BE WITH US and to SUFFER WITH US, and to give us hope that the suffering and evils we endure in this life do not have the final word. He came to show us that in and through HIM, our contradictions can come to be reconciled even if we continue to experience them as contradictions for as long we live our earthly life.
When our Lord Jesus Christ came into our world, He did not come to sanitise it. He came to BE WITH US and to suffer with us, and to give us hope that the suffering and evils we endure in this life do not have the final word.
I do not know who you are but I wish to tell you that somehow I see you and I feel what you feel. Because I am also still healing from a pain I never felt I had permission to feel about Christmas. I feared this time of the year for so many years because underneath all the glittering things on the surface I never felt emotionally safe or that I had the permission to be anything but pious and happy. I was so preoccupied trying to steer clear of emotional minefields while checking all the boxes of what is “needed” to be done to celebrate Christmas properly that it was hard to let Christ’s birth penetrate my heart.
It struck me this morning that I wanted to give myself permission to feel what I feel this Christmas. I told myself that I will draw the boundaries I need to draw so that I can be compassionate to myself as well as others. I will prepare my heart for Christ not by trying to sanitise it but by acknowledging that I am not in control, and that I am in need of a saviour.
Come, Lord Jesus, come! Come into the messy world that is our lives, come into this world of contradiction, imperfection and sin. Come and be with us and through your love and power bring true and deep peace into our hearts. Maranatha!