Christmas has become such a festive holiday. Lights, parties, cheery decorations, and upbeat music are all part of the American Christmas tradition. It is a season to be merry, a time to rejoice, and a month where good well, gift giving, and happiness seems to abound.
But what if you’re not feeling the Christmas spirit this year? What if your season is tinged by darkness? What if your celebration is overshadowed by grief or loss? What if you feel alone this season and the merriment and happiness of this time can’t seem to touch your soul?
There is good news! The story of Christmas is not one of carefree happiness. It’s a story of struggle, loss, drama, relational tension, darkness, and loneliness. It’s the story of God stepping down to earth not at the most wonderful time of the year or to a happy, celebratory situation but at a time and situation of pain and complexity. The message of Christmas is not cheer and merriment to all, but that light pierces the darkness and that that light has come.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Jesus’ arrival was not picture perfect. His birth was not celebrated and joyfully anticipated by a loving extended family, and His coming was not welcomed by a community of caring friends. He was born to a young couple who were walking in the pain and complexity of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and broken family dynamics. Yet that is exactly how the Son of God chose to arrive—in darkness, without fanfare, and into the brokenness of humanity.
Mary knew loneliness. She knew rejection. She felt the pain of loss and grieved over broken relationships. Yet even in the midst of the darkest season of her life, she found joy in God. She rejoiced at being chosen by God for this important task.
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’”
Joy at Christmas doesn’t mean giddy excitement nor is it blissful happiness. Joy can be had in the midst of life’s hardest situations because it is an unwavering trust and reliance upon God and His promises. Joy can be crying in grief and simultaneously rejoicing in God. I guarantee that Mary shed many tears over the nine months of her pregnancy. I’m sure Joseph had some sleepless nights wondering and worrying about the future. Yet both of them joyfully embraced the roles God had given them.
That first Christmas was far from happy, merry, and bright. It was one of the worst times of year since the emperor ordered a decree for everyone to travel. There was inconvenience, hardship, and drama. But this was the world, the time, the situation, and the place where Jesus chose to be born so that we might know and recognize one of the many messages of Christmas: light has come to pierce the darkness.
Jesus came into a world of darkness at a time and into a family experiencing hardship and loss. But He didn’t leave them there. He came to bring light and joy and with His birth everything changed. Did the situation change? No. Did life become easier? No. But everything changed because Emmanuel had come—God with us, the light of life.
So if you’re feeling sad, depressed, lonely, or are grieving the loss of a loved one and don’t feel in the “Christmas spirit”, take heart because you might actually be closer to reexperiencing the wonder of that first Christmas than you realize. But you can’t stay in that place because Jesus is here. The Light of the world has come and pierced the darkness. God is with us, and we are not alone.
Therefore, step into the light and find the joy that comforted Mary on those dark and lonely nights on the flight to Egypt and gave Joseph the courage he needed to lead his family into an unknown future. Let the Light of Christ pierce your darkness and join the ranks of those who have experienced the true joy of Christmas: God with us through the joys and sorrows of life.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”
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