"The Word became flesh and lived among us..." John 1:14
This time of the year we are sur-rounded by a spirit of joy and celebration. Beautiful trees decorate our homes and joyful music fills the air. The whole world seems to stop for a month in celebration of the happiest time of the year.
But often, for many, this doesn't feel like such a joyful time. For some, the Christmas season brings on depression and loneliness. Sometimes these emotions are prompted by events of the past that come flooding into memory. Sometimes these emotions come seemingly unbidden from the depths of our souls. For others, Christmas is a season of grief. We remember those who are no longer with us. Seeing others rejoice with family and friends reminds us of our own loss and grief.
And now, in this time of recession, we are hit with another cause for anxiety. In this season of joy and celebration, many are confronted with the reality of economic distress. Some have lost large portions of their savings and fear for the future. Some worry about their ability to pay their bills and wonder if they will be able to retain their houses. Some have lost their jobs and fear for their future, even as they feel pressure to spend on gifts.
We become confused because the expectation surrounding us is that we should be happy. But that expectation doesn't match our reality. So we begin to question ourselves. Why am I having such a hard time when everyone else seems to be doing so well? Why can't I be happy, too? What's wrong with me?
These questions and doubts surround us and bring even more distress. They can create shame because we start to think we're not good enough. We feel anxiety because we're not meeting others' expectations. We may even feel guilt for not being joyful in this season of supposed joy. All these anxieties can make us feel very alone.
But we are not alone. That is what Christmas is all about. If you strip away the red bows, the twinkling lights and the eggnog, Christmas is about the divine incarnation. The gospel of John tells us, "The Word became flesh and lived among us..." God took on our flesh and came to live among his people. Jesus lived our life. He felt our struggles. He labored hard as a carpenter. He experienced love and loss, even weeping in his grief. And he suffered mightily, experiencing rejection, torture and crucifixion. Daily, Jesus walked the path that we walk.
He knows our pain.
When we suffer, we can turn to the one who knows our pain. Sometimes we're tempted to turn away until we are "fixed." We think that we can't come to God when we are broken. But our Lord says "Come - now!" In imperfection, come. In suffering, come. In loss, come. In the midst of our pain, his arms are open and welcoming. In his presence we will find peace and wholeness. Our problems won't instantaneously go away. But the one who brings life will help us carry those burdens that are too heavy to carry alone.
This Christmas, turn to him and his community. Go to church, any church. When you walk in, you will find the heart and hands of our Lord. In the community of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ will enfold you in his love and walk with you even in times of anxiety and grief. The very Word of God has become flesh and will live among us every day, bringing his peace and love into our lives.
This is the true joy of Christmas!