What About When Christmas Hurts?

Christmas is like no other time of year. The lights, the decorations, the activities – they all draw our attention to what’s coming. We plan our events and parties, and we fill our calendars with special occasions that only happen once a year. Everything in our days is leading up to that one magical day, Christmas day – December 25th.

The excitement, anticipation, and joy that come with this day can be all-consuming for a child who gets to bake cookies, gets a break from school, and gets presents. For a young child, each morning can be greeted with the same question, “Is it Christmas yet?”. And each car ride at night is heard with squeals of delight and “Oohs” at the lights glistening on each block.

But what happens when Christmas comes to those who are hurting? Our world can feel dark and cold so many times, not just in the dead of winter. Hopeless and helpless. Longing for hearts to be mended and wounds to be healed but Christmas reminds us that there is a hope outside of ourselves, outside of our brokenness.

The holiday season can be painful for many – a time when joy is hard to hold on to and peace seems unattainable. But like children waking every morning longing for it to be Christmas, as Christians, we can wake every morning and long for Christ our Savior (Psalm 63:1).

The fulfillment of our Christmas celebrations won’t happen on Christmas morning. Actually, Christmas morning can leave us with even more disappointment. Unlike most holidays Christmas reminds us that there is more, and that we wait for something far more glorious than something that we can purchase on our own.

As Christians living in the AD, we can look back on the birth of Jesus and remember the glorious, majestic events that took place on that quiet night, in that unnoticed inn (Luke 2:7).

But, we don’t stop there! No, our hearts and minds as believers now look forward. Forward to the coming Messiah’s return when all will be made right again (Hebrews 9:28).

The festivities will come, whether we’re ready or not, whether our bank accounts are full, and whether our hearts are in a joyful spirit. Christmas is a time of reflection on the last year. If the last year was difficult then celebrating can be a challenge.

But if we can reflect on who God is – that baby boy who came to save us – and long for His return, we can find our souls relief in Him (Isaiah 40:31). Sometimes our hearts don’t feel like singing, “Joy to the World” because they’re stricken with grief.

Our pastor recently drew the congregation’s attention to the less popular Christmas song, “O Come Emmanuel”. This isn’t a new song; it’s been around for centuries. It doesn’t contain and upbeat jingle or mention of Santa Clause and white Christmas snow. The lyrics are somber and the music is slow, but the words are powerful.

O come, O come,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God Appear”
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel is coming! Our hurts, pains, disappointments, trials, losses, burials, worsening illnesses, our struggles, heartaches, unmet desires are seen by the one who sent His son to ransom captive Israel (Isaiah 35:10, Jeremiah 31:11).

We can rejoice because Christmas reminds us again that Emmanuel came once and we get to be on the other side of history waiting for Him to come again. (James 5:7)

The Bible reminds us to be ready for our King’s second coming (Hosea 10:12, Matthew 24:42-43). And, yet so many times, we live our lives like it’s mid-July and Christmas is still so far away. But just like the countdown on our Advent Calendar’s reminds us, Christmas is coming – and more importantly, Christ is coming (Mark 13:33).

With the hope of Christ in our hearts, the simplicity of Christ’s birth, the prophecies leading up to His birth, the divine plan of moving Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem by a decree from an ungodly ruler – everything about Jesus’ birth reminds us that the God of the universe is orchestrating everything in our lives right now for our good and for His glory.

Our anticipation of His second coming should be lived out in wonder and with the work of preparing our hearts all year long (Isaiah 25:1).

Why does every heart long for something greater, something outside of themselves, a day of peace, moments of joy and cheer? Because every heart is engraved with eternity. The longing that only Jesus can fill.

After Christmas comes December 26, and soon after we go back to our regular lives, our busy schedules, and the mundane and tiresome day to day work.

But let’s not forget to wait in anticipation, with longing or our Savior, the same way a child wakes up each morning in December and asks with eagerness, “Is it Christmas?”

And when the season hurts, we can rejoice as we wait until the Son of God appears

Janel Barr

I'm married to my best friend, Joel and we are currently living in El Paso, Texas. We are deep in the throes of raising our three young children and serving in our local church. I'm fueled by a good cup of coffee, chips, and guacamole, and always love a good book.