As we spend time with friends and family during this Christmas season, I want to share one additional thought:
Christmas is a time of nostalgia, family, and togetherness. For most of us, we look on this time with fondness and excitement, anticipating the arrival of a season that is special and full of memories. But there is also a great sadness for some of us. With Christmas comes painful memories, as not every person we love is here any more. As much as we love to be with our closest friends and family members, the absence of our lost loved ones is sometimes felt just as much as the presence of those who are physically in our midst.
For you, this may not be the case, but 2020 has robbed you of experiencing Christmas to its fullness. Maybe you are being forced to experience Christmas through a computer screen, you or someone you know has become ill, or something else about this year has destroyed your image of what Christmas would be like.
I, as much as anyone, recognize this pain and don’t want to ignore it. My dad passed away only days before Christmas fourteen years ago. It was sudden, unexpected, devastating. Every year is difficult and there is always a part of me that expects him to come walking in the door. I always tell myself that one day the pain will go away, but it doesn’t.
With this, every Christmas, I attempt to remind myself of two things:
First, I am reminded that our pain is just one way we identify with Jesus’ sacrifice for us. While it isn’t sentimental or “feel good,” this theological reality is something I cling to each year during Christmas. When Jesus went to the cross, he took on a pain that is deeper and more profound than the deepest sadness I will ever experience.
Second, I am reminded that pain is evidence of love. After all, if there were no pain, sadness, or grief, how could I say that I ever loved my dad? As much as I want God to remove my pain, I can also experience peace in knowing that it is this very pain that reminds me of how much he meant to me.
You may be experiencing pain for any number of reasons. Maybe, like me, you have lost someone you love. Or maybe, due to our current health crisis, you are unable to see your loved ones in person and a “virtual Christmas” seems so disappointing, a let-down of an otherwise beautiful experience. Maybe it’s something entirely different. Whatever the case, just know that you are not alone.
And this brings me to a third—and quite important—reality: We are not alone. After all, this is the reality of Christmas, that Jesus came as Immanuel, which means “God with us.” This Christmas, as you look around a full room—virtual or otherwise—and perhaps even amongst family you are tempted to feel lonely, let the gentle and powerful whisper of God lean into your ear and say, “I am with you.”