This post is for you — who will thaw frozen green beans, open a package of deli ham, call it Christmas dinner … and sit down to eat it in front of the TV. Alone.
This post is for you — who hasn’t gotten out the Christmas decorations because you know that there are stockings in that box for people who are no longer in the house … and you can’t bear to see them.
This post is for you — who used to have a favorite holiday recipe, but if you made it now … you’d be stirring in too many tears.
This post is for you — who has watched and smiled over the years at pictures of kids with Santa, and pictures of more kids with Santa, and pictures of even more kids with Santa … when the child you long for or lost is not in your pictures at all.
This post is for you — who pieces together a pleasurable holiday season for yourself, even though you never get what you really want for Christmas … which is more than just slivers of time with your children and grandchildren.
This post is for you — who has dealt with such difficult medical setbacks all year … and who barely has enough energy to celebrate or enjoy anything this Christmas, even though you want to.
This post is for you — who dreads January, when people will ask if you enjoyed your Christmas break … because you can’t think of anything positive to say about it.
This post is for you — who has spent all year trying to hide from your children how bad it has gotten financially … and who doesn’t think you can get them a single thing on their Christmas lists.
This post is for you — who would love to have someone special to see the lights with, or exchange thoughtful presents with, or watch a Christmas movie with, or travel to your relatives’ house with … but it looks to be another season spent without someone beside you to share it.
This post is for you — whose parent always forgets to get you a gift … or always picks one up at the drugstore as an afterthought on the way.
This post is for you — who scrolls through the happy images on Instagram and Facebook and wants to throw your phone against the wall … because just seeing all of it hurts.
This post is for you — who wishes the holidays were not so much about family … because all your family does is fight.
This post is for you — because the holidays leave you empty … and you are tired of having to act like you are full.
Not everyone’s Christmas memories are good ones.
I am so sorry. I honor you and the heartache you have faced. If we could have coffee right now, we would be instant friends. We would have so much in common, and I would pass on no condemnation for your feelings because those are emotions I have felt– still feel– myself.
But I know this from experience: when the holidays are hard, it can make you hard, and that is dangerous. Our natural instinct is to pull away, to cover and protect places of pain. If we sense self-protection creeping in and do nothing to stop it, it can lead to bitterness. Bitterness is more painful over time than any heartache you could ever endure.
The opposite of hope is not hopelessness. No, hopelessness is where hope begins.The opposite of hope is bitterness. And the only way to fight bitterness is to hold onto hope.
Surprisingly, sometimes hope is most hidden during the holidays. We have to hunt for it. Hunting hope will require that we remain open instead of closed. Hope comes from God’s hand alone, and if we close ourselves off by not accepting a party invitation, not looking at social media, not sending Christmas cards, not decorating the house, not setting the table, not wrapping presents, and not keeping up beloved traditions– all things I have done in self-protection– then we are too closed to receive the hope we need.
When the holidays are hard, we have to keep our hearts soft. When the holidays are hard, we have to stay open.
I love Psalm 81:10 — “I am the Lord your God … open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”
The picture in that verse is one of a baby in total dependence. A baby is the central image of Christmas. Though the thought of it brings us greater pain, we must approach the holidays as Jesus did: defenseless, vulnerable, and tender. As a baby.
We must cry out to our Father that we are not full. We are still hungry.
But what if I open my heart, and He doesn’t notice me? we ask.
“He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things,” Psalm 107:9 answers.
But what if He forgets this time? we ask.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” God shouts in reply in Isaiah 49:15.
We who are are hurting and hungry must stay soft and open this Christmas. We must engage instead of pulling away. Will you do a few of these things with me?
- Comment positively on a two social media posts every day until Christmas. Don’t avoid the pictures. Let them bring out graciousness in you.
- Send one meaningful Christmas card. Just one. Let it generate grateful thoughts about another person.
- Give a gift to someone you have never given a gift to before. Maybe the person in your most frequented drive-thru needs a gift card.
- Decorate the house a little, even if you are the only one to enjoy it. Even one wreath, one candle can represent the hunt for hope.
- Invite a friend over for dinner this holiday season. Or invite them out to lunch. But when you are home, set the table, even if you are the only one sitting down to it. Listen to me: you are worth setting the table.
Uncover your wound. Open your mouth. Stay in God’s arms, and let Him hold you, precious one.
Come into Christmas the same way Jesus did.
Pre-order Hunting Hope from your favorite bookseller.