For many years, Christmas was a very difficult holiday for me: not because I didn’t understand the true meaning of Christmas, or because I wasn’t thankful for the beauty and wonder of the coming of Christ, not because I didn’t love my family, or enjoy the celebrations that surrounded the season, but because I felt there was a giant empty place in my life. No matter how hard I tried, it was hard to see the twinkle in the lights beyond the dark sadness in my heart.
My husband and I struggled with infertility for 11 long years. Not every moment was sad, and I am thankful that God gave us those years, and for the comfort and strength He gave me in the midst of them, and yet they were still very difficult. It was a very real, and sometimes very raw, grief. The joy and excitement of the Christmas season seemed, by contrast, to make our melancholy more pronouned. It wasn’t a grief that was always evident to others. We hadn’t “lost” anyone or anything, but our empty home bore a silent witness to the fact that something precious we longed for was missing.
I do not share this to gain your pity. God has been so good to me. My husband and I now have two beautiful children, and even if we did not have them, God has always been good to us. The silence and sadness of my barren years caused me to look to the Lord in a way I would not have done if my heart and hands had been filled immediately with what I wanted.
There are some of you who may be reading this who know exactly the feeling I am speaking of, although your “loss” may be of a different kind than mine. It may be the physical loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the loss of health, or an unfulfilled dream. It could be a transitional season in your life, where you feel that others have moved on, and you’ve been left behind. It could be that you are simply overwhelmed by trials or heartache. It could be a number of other things. Whatever the reason, if you are struggling to realize the joy and celebration of Christmas, do not despair. Even in our lonely, sad, empty, uncertain times, there is hope. God has not failed us. God has not forgotten us.
Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? If not, I encourage you to trust Him today. He came to bring forgiveness, peace, joy, and life. The birth of Christ was just the beginning. His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, are the answer to our deepest needs. Recognizing and admitting your need of salvation from sin, repenting of your sin, and trusting Christ as the only means of that salvation, will transform not only your life, but your eternity.
If you know Christ as Savior, but you feel like (or someone tells you) that you aren’t understanding the true meaning of Christmas because you are struggling with fear, pain, or loss, please pause now and remember the first Christmas. It was not a joyous gathering of friends and family around a bountiful feast, nor a special service in a church, nor beautiful, heartwarming songs.
The first Christmas was a time of weariness, financial strain, personal shame and misunderstanding, upset plans, confusing changes, rejection, discomfort, and hard travail. Yes, there was singing by the angels, but only the shepherds in the field heard it. There was worship, but in a dark stable by the few who truly believed. There was joy, but it was mingled with pain. There was revelation of the work of God, but it was met with fear before it was received by faith. There was miraculous fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan, but the reproach of Jesus Christ came the moment He was conceived, and was borne by those who chose to identify with Him. There was praise and prophesying in the Temple, but only by two elderly saints who had long been looking for His appearing. There was a bright star, but only a few wise men from a distant country understood its significance. There was rejoicing by a few over the birth of a baby, but there was weeping because a wicked king saw Him as a political threat and went on a murdering rampage of innocent children. The great God who is our Refuge came to earth, and Joseph and Mary had to flee with Him at night as refugees to escape Herod.
Christmas is a wonderful thing because of all that the coming of Christ accomplished. If you feel that you cannot celebrate Christmas because you are burdened, or broken, or sad, or confused, or fearful, that is not true. Those who celebrated the first Christmas did so in spite of those things because by faith they looked past themselves and their circumstances to the One whose coming transformed their lives. Fix your heart, your mind, your eyes in faith on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the joy, the peace, the glory, the wonder of Christmas.