Christmastime is said to be the most wonderful time of the year, but there are times when Christmastime is the most difficult time of the year too. Most of us try to muster up all the jolly we can, and force a smile to carry us through this time of year, but truly, the most wonderful time of the year can sometimes be a difficult time of year too.
Maybe your Christmastime comes with an ugly diagnosis, or bills you can’t pay. How are you supposed to afford gifts when you’re not sure how to put food on the table? Maybe the cupboards are bare and the lines at the food bank are long. This isn’t how you imagined life would be right now.
Maybe there has been a recent job loss or lay-off. Maybe this means there are very few gifts under the tree this year, or no gifts or tree at all. How can you afford to light up a tree, when you’re not sure how you’re going to pay the electric bill?
Maybe your Christmastime is spent in a hospital room, or visiting a loved one in jail. That’s not an ideal way to spend Christmastime. There’s no hot cocoa, there’s no caroling around a fire, maybe this year there is just another nurse on rotation or another corrections officer saying time is up. Leaving that place knowing the person you love has to stay, might be one of the hardest things you have ever had to do, especially at Christmas.
Maybe you are deployed and spending Christmastime in a land far from home. Maybe that deployment means being surrounded by the sound of machine guns and explosions rather than Christmas music and crackling logs on a fire. Perhaps you long for nothing more than a silent night with the ones you love, rather than sleeping on a cot in the middle of the desert, wondering if you’ll get a good enough connection to call home this year. Maybe you’re the family at home waiting for your soldier to come home. Maybe the merriest part of your Christmas is that grainy, 5 minute Skype conversation, as bittersweet as it may be.
Maybe you’re a homesick missionary, spending Christmastime being the hands and feet of Jesus to this world. You listened to the command to go and make desciples and that call to serve has taken you far from the familiarities of Christmastime at home. As much as you try to remember that what you’re doing is important, you feel forgotten at times like these. Cards and care packages are scarce or nonexistent. You know the Lord sees you, you know He is pleased, but sometimes serving the Lord makes Christmastime feel like a lonely time too.
Maybe you’re an empty nester and this time of year you are missing the joyful chaos and the mess you once loathed many Christmas mornings. Maybe your children are on their own now, in places far away, and Christmastime reminds you of how fast the time goes by. Maybe the house is too quiet, and far less exciting these days.
Maybe you’re a college student trying to find your place in this world. Maybe your fellow students have gone back home to visit their families and you’re one of the few people still stuck on campus. Maybe you’re somber or even jealous seeing the posts and pictures of the festivities they’re enjoying without you. Are you the one who has been checking the mail every day, hoping for something-anything-from home but again… no mail for you. Maybe you long for a home cooked meal like the one grandma always makes, but you’ve had to settle for ramen or have splurged for take-out again. College budgets are tough on the tummy and tastebuds.
Maybe you’re divorced or separated and have to spend your Christmastime sharing, or completely away from your children. This probably wasn’t how you imagined Christmastime would be for your family. You probably never thought it would be Christmas at mom’s house one year then Christmas at dad’s house the next. You probably thought it would just be Christmas morning as a family. The way it “should be” but it’s not, and that’s difficult. Maybe you have to have Christmas on a day that’s not even Christmas because your custody arrangements say this year it’s not your turn.
Maybe Christmastime reminds you of those you love who have passed away. No matter how full your home is, no matter how many cards come in the mail, you’ll always miss that one special person, that one special card that won’t be there anymore. Oh what you’d give to give them just one more Christmas hug, or see their handwriting on the outside of an envelope addressed to you.
Maybe you’re a widow spending Christmastime without your spouse and you can’t help but still hang that special stocking, even though it’s empty this year. Maybe that stocking has been hung empty for years, but the sting still feels the same. You miss them. You always will, and Christmastime makes it a little more difficult.
Are you experiencing a difficult time this Christmas?
As I have prayed over this blog, I have wondered what that first Christmastime must have been like. I have always dreamt it as such a beautiful and incredible time, I can’t help but wonder if the first Christmas was actually very difficult.
Mary, the mother of Jesus was just a teenager when she was pregnant. She was engaged to Joseph, but that wasn’t his baby, and I’m sure there was a lot of difficulty that came with that.
Did people gossip about her? Probably.
Did people think she was a liar? Probably.
Did people think she was sinful and unfaithful to Joseph? Probably.
That must have been so difficult!
She had to leave home for the census and be registered where Joseph was from. She traveled a very long way on an animal, while very pregnant (and probably swollen absolutely everywhere.) I imagine that was super uncomfortable. I don’t even like to tie my shoes when largely pregnant, I can’t imagine the discomfort of traveling a great distance on the back of an animal.
Then this precious woman, who was in labor with the King Of Kings, couldn’t even be offered a clean bed to birth this child. (Let alone an epidural and some ice chips!) She gave birth in a barn next to a bunch of smelly animals. I can’t imagine that animals make very good midwives no matter how tame they are. Was Jesus a big baby? How long was her birth? Did Joseph say all the wrong things at all the wrong times, or was he supportive while she gave birth to a baby that wasn’t biologically his?
Imagine what that first Christmas was like for Mary…She’s far away from home, in a dirty manger, with a man who has mostly likely been considered a fool by the townspeople for even staying with her, to give birth to a baby she never asked for. A teen mom with an unplanned pregnancy, far from home, giving birth to a child that is not biologically her husband’s baby, and she has the most unpleasant birthing conditions.
Did her mom travel with her? Did she have a good support system during her birth? Did someone help her with feeding the baby? Some babies have trouble nursing! Did Jesus have colic? Who taught her how to swaddle? So many things remain a mystery about the first Christmas but I imagine as much as it was such a wonderful time, it was probably also very difficult.
Then, when it was all said and done, Mary couldn’t return home because the king wanted to kill baby Jesus. I imagine every Christmas afterward made her miss home. Sure she knew that God had trusted her with the most incredible thing in all of creation, but that didn’t mean it was easy.
Sometimes the most wonderful time of the year is difficult, but you know what? Even the very first Christmas was difficult. Even when we are in the midst of difficult times, life is wonderful. Even with the difficulty of the very first Christmastime we were given the most wonderful thing of all… JESUS!
Even in your difficult times today, or the difficulties you may face every Christmas, you still have Jesus.
Maybe God has allowed this difficult thing at Christmastime because in the end, there’s Jesus. Maybe someone will see Jesus because God trusted you with this difficult thing. Maybe there’s someone out there watching you endure this season of difficulty and when all is said and done, they will see Jesus in you.
Perhaps on the other end of this trial, this loneliness, this illness, or season of difficulty YOU will finally receive the most wonderful gift of all. It will be a gift unlike any gift you have EVER received. Maybe this Christmas, you will receive Jesus… just like Mary did, that very first Christmas.
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:21 NKJV
In His Love,