I’ve been told that this is the most wonderful time of the year. In the midst of the busy holidays, we hear cheerful music in every store we go to. On television, there are always advertisements showing happy people being together in happy ways (often enjoying a product you could buy, and, presumably, feel equally happy about). As the echoes of the Black Friday deals fade and the Christmas-themed movies air with perfect-looking people eventually getting perfect endings, I can’t help but feel a little empty sometimes. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to be thankful for this time of year. We are counting down the days to celebrate the greatest gift that was ever given to us. But during this barrage of positivity, sometimes it feels like there isn’t a place for other experiences.
Truth be told, this is a tough time of year for a lot of people. While society celebrates, buys a bunch of things, and posts pictures of family on social media, a lot of folks are struggling. Some have lost loved ones, and this will be the first Christmas without a spouse, a parent, or child. Some families are facing empty bank accounts and are making tough choices about how to survive. Some people remember the holidays primarily as a time they were trapped with family dysfunction. Other people might just be having a season that they don’t want to put on a big smile. There’s nothing more irritating than pressure to feel something that you don’t currently feel.
If your life doesn’t have a glossy Hallmark Channel sheen or you face a Christmas that isn’t just laughter, perfect presents, and eggnog, know you’re not alone. I believe that our God is not a God who demands that we put on a happy face all the time. Like a close friend, God longs to meet us where we are.
As a person of faith, I believe that the holiday season we are gearing up for has a whole lot more meaning than just stockings, Amazon packages, sales, and charming family photos. I believe that this time of year is about remembering a God who wanted to come close to us, to love us, and show us the truth. I believe that God cares about you, no matter where you are in your life. And, I believe even in the face of the difficulties that sometimes feel overwhelming, God’s grace will find you and bring out gifts in your life that are so much better than anything you’ll find wrapped up under a tree.