Christmas has always been one of my most favorite times of year. In the middle of the darkest months of winter, we decorate with lights, bright colors, and cheer. If there is reason to be sad, we can effectively hide it behind joyous carols and celebratory gift giving.
And yet, for many, Christmas is a deeply painful time. Well-meaning celebrations become reminders of what’s lost and broken.
When finances are stretched there are few reminders as bold and blaring as Christmas time sales. When a loved one has been stripped from your arms, few reminders are as painful and stabbing as the Christmas time merriment. When you’re emotionally or spiritually lost, Christmas seems more a mockery to pain than a gift from God. When your family is broken, family gatherings, or lack thereof, can allow a dark loneliness to set in.
The lives we live are often surrounded by hardship and the resulting damp, thick fog of sorrow can press in and easily take hold during the “most wonderful time of year.”
When I was a girl, I was always the first to object if the Christmas decorations had not been pulled out as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey had cooled. Even as a child, one of the most beautiful things in the world to me was staring at the bright colors of Christmas as they broke through the darkness with a sense of hope and belief in something better.
I still live by that hope. Even when life is hard and I lament the way things are, I can’t shake the hope and deeply seeded belief that the light always breaks through the darkness.
Right now, things are hard. There are so many things threatening to dampen the joy of the season or snuff out the light in my heart. But, hope always persists.
Jesus came into a world full of darkness: Political darkness, spiritual darkness, and emotional darkness. Many sorrows had been suffered by the people living in those turbulent times. Much like today, people were divided and an underlying thread of anger, hostility and fear had threaded its way into the culture.
And where was God?
God had been silent for some 400 years.
But we make a mistake if we believe that silence is the same as distance. God hadn’t left or forgotten his people.
And on that night, so long ago, the light of a star broke forth into the darkness and an infant took his first earthly breath.
The beauty of Christmas isn’t a promise that life will always be what we wanted. The beauty of Christmas is the belief that wrong doesn’t get to win; it’s the hope that no matter how bad it hurts or how difficult it is right now, that darkness doesn’t get the last word. There is hope for healing and hope for betterment and hope for our souls. There is hope for eternity and hope for our futures.
There is Christmas hope when darkness reigns.
Lift up your head and see.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
That is what we celebrate.
That is what we celebrate when there is nothing else. That is what we celebrate when everything else hurts.
We celebrate the hope of Christ and the hope that God hasn’t given up on us yet, even if he does seem silent for a time.
We celebrate the hope that what’s broken can be fixed.
We celebrate the hope that God is in the redemption business and the last page of our stories hasn’t been written yet.
Because Christmas is all about hope; hope that what’s lost will be found.