Written 12/21/16; revised 12/16/21
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin.
I know it should be the most wonderful time of the year; I know all things should be merry and bright.
But after the most brutal month in five years, I guess I can’t help if it doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all.
Not that I’m writing to implore sympathy. I just know I’m not the only one struggling with disappointment and the idea of sweeping it under the holiday carpet right now.
Perhaps you’re sitting there waiting for the snow to fall wondering how to overcome the heartache you harbor inside. If so, I want to encourage you today.
‘Cause when it comes to despondency, especially in seasons when we feel we should be in ‘joy to the world’ mode, it can be hard knowing how to cope. I know for me, I can feel a little guilty whenever I have to manufacture an outward expression contrary to my inward state.
Yet, while emotional dichotomies can feel awkward, when we choose to be joyful in spite of pain, we can overcome as conquerors taking a stand rather than fakers putting up a front.
Granted, I’m not saying this is easy; I’m just sayin’ when we justify withdrawal by not wanting to feel hypocritical or not wanting our hurt to leak, we risk exalting our sorrow above God’s nearness and revelation. Yes, being disappointed is a natural part of life; however, if we allow the letdowns of life to govern how we live, we not only validate the influence of tolerated bondage but limit our capacity to trust God.
Take Luke 1 for instance:
When Gabriel reveals God’s plan to Zechariah (v. 13-17), including the promise of “you will have joy and gladness”, note the first three words out of his mouth: “How can I…?”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it remarkable how a man righteous before God could be overcome by such skepticism in His presence. Considering Zechariah’s past behavior (v. 5-7), such a reaction tells me he most likely preserved his discouragement of Elizabeth’s barrenness though hopelessness and concealed it through blameless service. Had Zechariah allowed God to grieve with him during his darkest hours, chances are his fear would have yielded to hope realized instead of hope deferred.
Fast-forward to Mary’s encounter and we find similar apprehension when Gabriel greets her in v. 29: “But she was greatly troubled…and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”
Yet, after Gabrielle unpacks his message, note the difference in Mary’s response (v. 36): “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord…
…let it be.”
No question, Mary had the right idea. Although her initial reaction was akin to Zechariah, her processed reaction allowed her to receive the promise in faith, in turn, altering the trajectory of what would happen soon after. In Zechariah’s case, his doubt preceded his silence; for Mary, her belief preceded her worship (i.e. “my soul magnifies the Lord” – v. 46).
Now, could Mary have chosen to freak out? Of course! I’m sure the thought of her having to do some explaining crossed her mind; however, when you consider Mary could have easily become preoccupied with her own life, this makes her song of praise (v. 46-55) all the more profound.
So what’s my point, you ask?
My point is like Zechariah, we all carry some type of void within us, be it a measure of distress or the weight of prayers unanswered. Yet, like Mary, we can also know the hope of Christ resides in us as infinitely more than the sum of our uncertainty…
…the peace of Immanuel (God with us) as captivation helping us conquer the temptation to make sense of our surroundings.
Maybe you’re reading this wondering how to ditch the loneliness looking for something to light up the fireworks in you. If you can relate, I want you know there’s not a hopeless void God can’t reach, nothing out of his range to restore. The same God who sent His one and only Son to take away the sins of the world is more than able to take away whatever burdens you’re carrying this Christmas.
And yes…I know it can be tough to let go. I get that. All I’m sayin’ is:
If you give yourself a chance to let it be, you’ll find new joy when you let it go.Tweet
Bottom line: Know who’s closest to you is nearer than what’s in front of you. That, to me, is what Christmas is all about.
Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Access