As Christmas is hours away, I am reminded that many people are struggling with keeping their joy. My heart breaks for them and I wish it could be different. In the last few days in my world, I’ve received sad news from friends of loss and grief, plans that went sideways and unexpected turn of events.
Sadness can drape over Christmas like a heavy blanket threatening to suffocate the hope and message of Christmas.
As I listened to a friend the other day, I heard the deep overwhelming sadness in between tears of trying to adjust to her new reality and new normal for her life of being a widow for the second time.
Although I am not facing anything close to similar that my friend has had to experience, this Christmas I have my own pockets of sadness. Relationships in my extended family that are struggling. The exhaustion of trying to do the right thing with no results to build bridges with people in my life that matter. Rejection and the realization that I can only control my actions and I can’t make others or even reason with them when they won’t choose to reconcile.
Sadness, our last member from the family of emotions is something we often can’t control and plainly said, it stinks! Or as my boys used to say when they were teenagers..it sucks! Sadness can land on us unexpectedly and submerge our joy. People, events and circumstances can trigger sadness, especially this time of year. Sadness can turn into despair because of very real disappointments and then that can lead to depression.
Some of the reasons people on my FB survey said they were sad around Christmas were because of these reasons…
Not being invited to a holiday event or gathering
Separated from loved ones
Those no longer with us
Tragedies in the world
Traditions no longer celebrated
Not able to give gifts because of lack of resources
Rejection. Deep relational strife. Disappointment. These are the companions of sadness.
Many of what people wrote on my FB wall, made me so sad! Some sent me private messages because they didn’t want to feel judged if they contributed to the survey openly. One single Mom wrote that she was just wishing that she could blink into January and miss Christmas because of all the expectations she couldn’t fulfill for her kids and the expectations of work parties, family and extra gifts she couldn’t afford.
Most of us learn that we can’t control what happens in our life with unmet expectations, grief, sadness or loss. I truly believe that God makes a way for us to not just to get through Christmas but to actually receive the gift of Christmas he wants us to experience…
Supernatural joy that surrounds us with peace and comfort.
Indulge me for just a minute. Can you think of just one thing that gives you joy at Christmas? Maybe this list will help you get started.
Being together with family and friends
Lights and Trees
Sharing with those less fortunate
I am like a little kid when it comes to Christmas lights and these are the warm fuzzy things that we can pull out of our memory banks. The emotions that lie dormant in our sub-conscious come forward and give us those warm fuzzy feelings and can bring forth a sense of joy and happiness. But it is just that, warm feelings, and they are temporary, they don’t last and it isn’t true joy.
Here is the good news I want to remind us (and myself!) as we are just moments from stepping into Christmas. Joy is more than just a feel-good feeling, it is the result of connection and it is with that little baby in the manger that we are celebrating, Jesus Christ. This is the good news that can helps us manage the sadness we might be experiencing.
The angels reminded the shepherds that holy night,
Listen! I bring good news, news of great JOY, news that will affect all people everywhere. Luke 2:10
The kind of joy that Luke is talking about is the kind that impacts people not from what we conjure up from our memory bank, but joy as a person, Jesus.
Jesus represents hope, love and joy for yes, even the hard things in life.
For the messiness, hurt and brokenness.
For those facing cancer and sickness.
For unmet expectations, and shattered dreams.
Broken relationships and fighting families this Christmas.
He came to bring that relational connection back to Himself. To bring the joy that he created us to experience with Him.
God came down humbly and simply to meet us in our sadness, our mess and muck for one reason, He longs to let us know that He loves us. He is over the moon about you and me. He craves relationship with us. His faithfulness beckons us over and over again despite our imperfections and failures. And yet He still pursues you and I for relationship.
This is where the manger intersects the cross.
Receiving his sacrifice on the cross is where the gift of Christmas begins. And even in the midst of life, the hard and yuck, if we have Jesus we can have joy because He is love. His one true gift has always been love for the redemption of creation.
John 3:16,17, from the Message Bible reminds us of this when it says,
This is how much God loved the world; He gave His Son, his one and only Son. And this is why; so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Did you hear that? A whole and lasting life, with Him for all of eternity wiping out the sadness and replacing it with Himself, joy, Jesus, Prince of peace, Immanuel, God with Us.
As you finish your last preparations for Christmas whatever that may look like, if you are fighting off being sad and just trying to get through, remember…
The little baby in the manger is your gift,
your salvation and most of all He is your creator God who loves you.
Special note: I’ve written a short devotional book on my own journey of depression called Under the Broom Tree. You can download it for free when you subscribe to my blog by signing up at cynthiacavanaugh.com. Even if you don’t want to continue receiving blog posts, you can sign up and then unsubscribe later. I’d love for you to be blessed and encouraged, but most of all know that there is hope in the midst of the darkness. Merry Christmas!