Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'til he appeared and the soul felt it's worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Passage: Matthew 11:28-30
Everywhere around us, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season has completely taken over. From Starbucks’ Chestnut Praline lattes, to the emergence of every imaginable Christmas decoration lining the aisles of Hobby Lobby, to the awed little children, standing in line to meet Santa at the Abilene Mall, or all of the twinkling lights on the houses, sparkling in the early twilight of these first December nights.
I’m notoriously an all-out lover of Christmastime. It’s—hands down—my absolute favorite time of year—I love everything about it. I love the traditions, the shopping, the spice-flavored hot drinks, the parties, the quiet moments with family snuggled under blankets watching old, classic Christmas movies. I love the fires, the caroling, the crisp air, the planning, the giving of gifts (ok, and the receiving, who am I kidding), and the general spirit of good cheer.
But for many people, Christmas is a time when all the pain and loss that has dominated their lives becomes a time when the wounds sting noticeably more. Often times, the holiday season, for those who are hurting, lonely, or grieving is a season when the weight of their wounds becomes even harder to bear than usual. I think the reason that grieving people hurt more during the holidays is because, in our culture, it is a time that is supposed to be full of relationship and community, and when we’re missing that in some way, it’s impossible to ignore.
I remember the first Christmas after my dad left. My mom tried her best to make everything as normal as possible and keep all of our family’s beloved holiday traditions in tact as best as she could, but his absence left a big, throbbing hole in our home. The reality of being abandoned stayed right next to me, and pulled for my attention with every sighting of a little girl and her dad, shopping for presents in a department store. When I looked outside at the neighbors across the street, to see a father and his kids hauling their Christmas tree inside, my heart ached. And when I saw men standing amidst their families, worshipping during Advent Sundays, my stomach tied in knots.
But in the middle of the hurt, the anxiety, and the fear that I would never be truly okay again—that my family would never be okay—Jesus met me. Right there. Right in the hurt, in the midst of the fear. He met me in the form of the Word, in my mom, in my brothers—and in the feeling of hope that slowly began to creep its way into my heart. For me, the presence of God was thick that Christmas.
Friend, that’s why Jesus came. That is the powerful, redeeming hope of Christmas: that God came down and took on flesh to dwell among us—to walk with us, to live as we live, and to be present with us in our brokenness and fear. This is a season that’s all about taking time to be still, reflect, and rest in the presence of a God who cares enough about our wounds and our brokenness to get right in the thick of it, take it on, and carry us through.
Are you weary or lonely? Does Christmas pull at tender scabs for you? Jesus is near, my friend. Seek him, and rest in the hope of his presence.
*this devotional is part of an Advent devotional collaboration, written by women of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. For the full online booklet, go to pioneer drive.org/advent