When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

By Shelly Beach

When we hear the word “Christmas,” our minds typically run to festivities, food, family, gifts, and gatherings. But for many people, Christmas can feel far from joyful. The realities of life ultimately bring separation, grief, loss, brokenness, and other challenges. Physical, relational, and circumstantial blows can overwhelm us. We may  feel we don’t have the strength to face the holiday season and be tempted to withdraw from those who want to offer support.

The Christmas blues can also come from harried schedules, unmet expectations, busted budgets, shopping burn-out, and the pressure that comes with gathering imperfect and unique family members under one roof.

Many of my friends are separated from their loved ones at Christmas. One friend’s husband just received word of an advanced stage recurrence of his cancer. Another dear friend’s husband recently left her–and took the kids. And a beloved couple I know is facing potential homelessness after discovering their new home is infested with toxins.

Where do we draw comfort during the holiday season, when the world seems to be celebrating?

Psalm 19:7-8 tells us that God’s Word is sure and reassures our soul: “”The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul . . . the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart . . . ” God never leaves us. He is for us. He promises to bring good out of the messes of our life. When life looks like chaos, we can trust His love.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us

“For unto us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

True comfort comes in knowing Jesus came to be God with us in our sorrow and pain.

Jesus placed Himself among strangers in a filthy world of disease, dysfunction, deception, and despair. Why? To experience our pain, to walk among us, to take on human form so He could truly know us. But God’s Son ultimately traded heavenly perfection for earthly brokenness so He could be crushed by the weight of the corporate sins of the world–an agony we cannot possibly imagine.

Christmas is about love so great that God chose the pain of the world.

Immanuel. God with us. God, who was born in a chilly, damp barn in the cold, rainy winter season. God, whose first breaths were of dirt and dung, a new mother who did not know the luxury of a shower, and a father’s work-roughened hand upon his face.

This is Christmas–God with us, in the blood, sweat, and tears of this world.

Our Savior.

Our Wonderful Counselor, who gives us wisdom for the asking.

Our Mighty God, who has already won our battles for us.

Our Everlasting Father, who offered His only Son to die in our place so we could live in freedom.

Our Prince of Peace, who offers forgiveness, reconciliation, and security in the storms of life.

Glory to God in the highest.

 

As a gift to you, please listen to the song “It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas This Year,” written by Steve Siler, founder and Executive Director of MusicfortheSoul.org. To play the song, click HERE, then click on the Preview button at the bottom of the screen.

Immanuel: The God of Hopes and Fears

2013-01-15_16-55-32_280               Photo Credit: Shelly Beach

For many of us, 2016 was a challenging year. 

Maybe “challenging” is the PC word you’d use if someone at church asked you about the year you had. In the privacy of your self-talk you might choose another word.

Heartbreaking.

Shattering.

Crappy, or other similar adjectives.

You may have lost a loved one. Been blindsided by abandonment. Been kicked to the curb in the face of injustice or self-interest, in spite of your faithful service. Or faced a dreaded diagnosis-yours or a loved one’s.

We look forward to a new year with hope that life will be better. Why?

Our hopes and fears are almost always intertwined. 

My first brain episode almost took my life. Doctors feared they might not be able to turn around the course of my rapid decline. My survival was in question, and it took over sixteen years for doctors to determine a diagnosis. During the first five years following that episode, I feared every symptom that struck my body would return me to a hospital bed and a dreaded diagnosis. I hoped and prayed I would remain healthy and thanked God for the measure of health and strength that returned to me. Many of my hopes and fears were tied to my health for years.

This year as I caught the phrase, “hope and fears of all the years of all the years are met in Thee tonight,” I’ve listened to the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” with new insight.

The hopes and fears of all humanity throughout history were met in Jesus’ birth. He lived among us, defeated death, and rose again. 

From the moment of His conception, He shared in our human experiences–our pain and suffering, sickness, heartbreak, disappointment, abandonment, hopes, and fears. He took the punishment we deserved to the grave so we could live with hope, free from fear of sin’s punishment and death. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory; we all demand our own way like the selfish rebels we are–yet He loves us so deeply we could never comprehend it.

Because of Jesus, I can look into my future without fear–no matter my diagnosis, income, feelings, or any human circumstances, because He is the source of all hope that has ever or ever will exist and the answer to every fear that has echoed through history.

IMMANUEL–God with us!