Joy this Christmas? Yes!
I know a woman who will weep this Christmas. She will do so for good reason. The love of her life died earlier this year.
She is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of us will spend hours in tears, if not all-out sobs throughout what is proclaimed to be the “joy” of the season. This deep, bone-on-bone lament cannot be escaped. Even scripture speaks what is true for the brokenhearted. We go through the valley of death (Psalm 23:4).
So, is joy really a sparkly, pretty fondant icing over a burnt cake to the grieving?
The answer may depend on who you ask.
There is a commonality, however.
All of us, even the most joyful of us, have moments—painful, sorrowful, punch in the gut moments. Life can hurt. We get dinged. We get scratched. We get tossed, turned, and trampled on at times.
Like you, I have and will continue to experience people who want to hide from Christmas, or at least run far from it this year. No tree. No lights. No presents. Just getting through these last few weeks will take a miracle, some think.
Even in the most dire and depressing places, and I am not dismissing these dampening emotions and the situations that deepen them one iota, there is news. There is a miracle. This miracle comes with a message, a message you can not only buy into but also believe in the chambers of your totally busted and never seeming to stop falling apart heart. There is eternal life. This life? Yeah, this one? This month-by-month calendar event we go over and over and over is not all. What we experience now is not everything. In fact, this life is just a blimp. Just a shadow. Just a snapshot. One that, when our tears are erased, will be deleted (Revelation 21:4). What is to come to those who choose Jesus is abundant life beyond this one that, no surprises here, can be completely joyful.
The message and our Messenger do change everything. Yes, there will be moments, days, or perhaps seasons of gloom and doom. Absolutely. I continue to think of the woman I mentioned at the top of this column. She will cry this Christmas. This tear fall happens when we choose one view, one outlook. I am not discrediting the grief process, nor am I encouraging you to downplay it. Valued lessons from such profoundly debilitating hurt can teach us so much about what to say and what to see when it comes to what, in fact, we do have. This is not immediate. Lost love doesn’t recover. It doesn’t bounce back. It does, however, speak to the love God experienced through the history of humankind before He sent Himself as His Son, Jesus Christ. The significance of this time of the year is that God chose to be with us not to condemn us, but to set us free to eternal life.
Tell me this. If you love—no, really, truly, unquestionably love, then you’ll want eternal life. Why? It’s obvious. You will want your loved ones to always have a connection with you. For example, a dad doesn’t want to leave his daughter if he really, truly loves her. You wouldn’t do that, dad. I know this because in the pack of five I’ve been gifted with this year as a foster dad, I have three girls. No way, after the lives they’ve lived, will I ever leave these girls and boys completely. I cannot do that. You can’t, either. Yes, I will die. Likely, I will die ahead of them, but given the option of nothing for them in the future or life again with them some day? Yep. Gonna take the latter option.
So, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, grandpa, Nana, spouse, foster parent, friend, single person… embrace this Christmas with joy. Accept Jesus. Gain eternal life. If you do go ahead of your son or daughter in death (as you likely wish, right?), then give them the gift of knowing you are not gone, you are not dead.
Don’t just accept Jesus and gain eternal life as some far-off deal. Joy is in the now.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on December 16, 2020.