This Christmas will be a first without a parent for me. I won’t be sitting next to Dad cutting his meat, or keeping Mom from eating all the chocolates on the table. My brother will not be offering Dad another glass of tea or giving him another sea salt caramel. These tasks will be missed this year. These acts, that sometimes felt like too much, is now a missing part of my heart. I know that it’s the first Christmas without loved ones for many. There are also those who are ill or in the hospital and will be missed at the dinner table. Another difference may be family members, who are bitter for whatever reason, and will not be a part of family gatherings this year. We are all facing a COVID Christmas which brings with it limitations on how many with whom we can celebrate. So how do we look at the lights, the tree, the gifts, the dinner, and the movies this year? There are many different responses we can have to Christmas this year. We can cancel it all together, stay home and cry, or we can honor God in our celebration.
Isn’t it tempting to run away from hard situations? It certainly seems like it would be easier to do that, but is it really? When we run, it doesn’t change the situation. In fact, if we run from this Christmas, there will always be next Christmas with the same situation. It’s better to face it now and know that God will help us through it.
“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Psalm 54:4
God is our helper this Christmas, when life is different and hard. He upholds my life. Wow! That’s quite a statement. When I feel like falling, he will hold me up. When I feel like running, he’ll gently pull me back. God is always faithful to us and walks with us each step of the way. How can we not honor God when he’s already sent his son for us? How can we not honor God when he’s upholding us in our time of grief and confusion? The way to honor him is to move through each day remembering that he is moving with us. We are never alone.
I think one of the best quotes I’ve heard concerning Christmas, suffering, and loss is from Paul Tripp in the Surviving the Holidays video from GriefShare.
“If there weren’t pain, suffering, sin, destruction, discouragement and death, there would be no need for Christmas. This holiday is about suffering. This holiday is about pain. Now what we’ve done, and it’s right do that, we’ve made this a holiday of celebrations. Because we celebrate the coming of the Messiah. But in so doing we forget why he came. He came to end suffering. He came to end death. He came to end sin and brokenness and pain and destruction and discouragement. And so this is the sufferers holiday. Rather than the holiday to be evaded, I ought to run to Christmas.”
See, the focus here is not on what I feel this season, but on what God has done for us. We don’t need to run from our feelings. Instead we need to take them to the God who has provided open arms for sufferers. He is waiting with open arms to embrace us with his love and understanding. We need Christmas to remind us of how great a Messiah we have. This year may be different, but God never changes so Christmas hasn’t really changed, only our circumstances. The true meaning of Christmas and what was accomplished because of it never changes.
My place at the table may have changed, but God knows and I can rest in his upholding my life in his hands. Life continues on and I know that one day someone will cut my meat, serve my tea, and keep my hands out of the candy. For that I’m grateful because, even then, the baby born on Christmas day to be the Savior of the world will still be upholding and loving me with steadfast love.
“…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11