How do you face the Christmas season when it doesn’t look the way it used to? A friend of mine will face his first Christmas in over 20 years without his wife. Another will celebrate without the child she waited so long for and held so briefly. They had both had plans for Christmas. They knew what was coming and now, this year, Christmas doesn’t look like Christmas at all.

Heartbreak and loss, loneliness and disappointment stand out in sharp contrast to the sparkly excitement of Christmas. Chaplin Kate O’Dwyer Randall said,

“Holidays in our culture are often about families, and families are not always happy institutions. I think that particularly if you’re facing a death or a divorce, the ’empty chair syndrome’ becomes very real at this time of year.”

Many churches now have “Longest Night” or “Blue Christmas” services. These services offer a more subdued atmosphere to welcome those who want to acknowledge Christmas, but can’t face the ebullient joy of a well intentioned “Joy to the World!”

Christmas gets all glammed up, but at the heart of it all, it celebrates a very quiet moment. Christmas began with a little baby in a stable. It started with two parents who were tired from a long journey and caught off guard that the baby would choose this particular moment to be born. It wasn’t glamorous, and it wasn’t shiny, but it did mark the moment when hope came to the world. (If you’re rusty on the details, you can read the Christmas story from the book of Luke.)

This poem by Ann Weems from her book Kneeling in Bethlehem sums it up perfectly:

The Christmas Spirit

Is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces
In the face
Of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed in our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things are possible,
That even now
Unto us
A child is born!

If you would like someone to talk to, we are here waiting to talk and listen. May you continue to cling tenaciously to the hope that we celebrate, even now.

Photo Credit: Simon Matzinger