Author: Karly Grant
Christmas. For some, that word brings feelings of excitement, glee, celebration, and magic. For others, that word invokes grief, dread, lost hope, or sadness. Or maybe you find yourself at a crossroad of all these emotions like I do? No matter where you find yourself this holiday season, I want you to know that you are seen, you are heard. The One who we remember and celebrate this season cares so deeply for you, about the real you and your emotions, more than you can ever imagine.
I am the first to get excited when Christmas decorations start going up, music with jingle bells starts playing, and Hallmark publicizes their list of new cheesy movies. I literally squealed with excitement upon arriving at work one day to see that decorations had started going up. I love the magic of Christmas; the excitement, the beauty, the memories, the laughter, the family time.
When I dig a little deeper beyond the surface aspects of the holiday season, that’s where the fairy tale ends. It is so easy to be reminded in this season of all the hopes, dreams, relationships, and people lost. It’s amazing how quickly, with just one thought, the feelings of cheer can switch to those of sadness.
For me, as well as many others, cheerful Christmas memories include estranged family members and people who have passed away. Where these losses are felt year-round, they can be especially hard during this time of year. It is difficult to gather with family and reminisce about the good ol’ days, when there is someone dearly loved that is not there to celebrate with you.
Another area of pain in this season comes in the form of unfulfilled hopes or dreams. We all have that perfect Hallmark picture in our minds of families gathered around the Christmas tree, caroling, festive parties, and happiness. While I love all of these things, nothing brings up thoughts of inadequacy or dreams lost for me as quickly as a holiday party. As a woman in my mid-30’s, I am reminded almost immediately upon arrival at such festivities of my singleness. I know it is never the intention of the people hosting the parties, but I quickly notice the seemingly happy couples and feel left out of a part of the cheer.
I always dreamed of being a happy family. I looked forward to the day that my husband and I would stay up all night assembling gifts, only to be awoken too early by our children and relish in the joy on their faces as they opened gifts on Christmas morning. The older I get, the less likely it is that I will get to experience this dream that I’ve placed on a pedestal and that hurts.
So the question remains, how do we find the balance between the cheer and the pain? How do we embark upon this season while keeping it real, but not allowing the enemy to speak lies that will either gloss over the pain with fake cheeriness or allow ourselves to have a pity party that brings gloom to the whole season? For me, I’ve found the answer is in Advent.
Advent is a season recognized by some churches that leads up to celebrating the birth of Christ. It is not something prescribed in the Bible as something that Christians must do, but something that I have found helpful in the last couple of years. As a child, my great-grandmother used to give me an advent calendar. I looked forward to opening up a window every day in December and eating the waxy piece of chocolate hiding behind the yuletide art. As an adult, I find the depth of diving into the words of God so much more fulfilling.
Last year was the first year that I purposely focused on the season of Advent. I did it imperfectly and missed some days, but it was definitely helpful to remember how much God loved me and to combat the lies that Satan brings during this season.
Last year during advent I focused on the word “joy” and even bought a little nativity set with this word prominent among the display of the manger. It was a year of hope as I looked forward to what I thought was ahead. I thought it would potentially be the last holiday season with my family for a while. God had another plan, but that’s another story. Joy is not the same as happiness. I still felt the pain of the hard times, but I knew that I had true joy because of the baby in the manger and the sacrifice that He made.
This year, I still have the nativity set on display in my window sill, but as I look forward to the advent season, my word is “intentional.” I am going to intentionally spend time in the Word of God, intentionally focus on being real with Him in my prayers. Hard times will come. Emotions will come, but as I dive deeply into God’s Word and remember the truth of why we have so much to celebrate this season, I will be intentional about not allowing the lies of the enemy to overtake me or lead my thoughts down a road that only leads to destruction. I pray that this year people will see the joy that comes from Christ as I am intentional about celebrating Him, even amongst the hard times, as I try to live out the words of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Karly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey, but she is willing to trust Him.