What do you do when Christmas is hard? What do you do when your bills are stacked higher than the presents under your tree?
What do you do when you are spending your days in the doctor’s office rather than at the mall?
What do you do when there is nothing to sing about?
What do you do when there is no family to come home?
What do you do when Christmas is hard? What do you do?
You know, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year for some people. For many folks, holiday greetings are holiday groanings and every bit of Christmas cheer has disappeared from their lives.
And so, if you are one of those lonely, discouraged people this December … I am writing this blog for you. I hope that my feeble words will some how encourage you to take a deep breath, to look beyond the holiday trappings and then to listen … just listen … for the music of the season. If you can’t join in the song … perhaps at least … you can listen.
If Christmas is hard rather than happy for you this year, may I suggest just a few healthy options for you to embrace? It was only two years ago that I was walking through the hardest Christmas of my entire life. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and was spending my holiday season in doctor’s offices, hospitals, treatment facilities and having horrible tests.
However, I was determined to celebrate Christmas in the most meaningful way possible. I resolved not to allow the circumstances of my life to rob me of the joy that only Christmas brings. I didn’t want to waste one single day of this blessed season at a pity party that was thrown only for me.
Perhaps what I learned during my dark Christmas will help you with your “hard” this year.
First of all … be more aware of others than you are of your own pain or disappointment. Look at people’s faces and pray for them whether you are in a doctor’s office, in a line to apply for unemployment or are by yourself at the grocery store. Look at people’s faces and pray.
Make eye contact with all of the people who cross your pathway this year. And, after you have looked into their eyes, after you have breathed a short prayer of blessing, then do one more thing for me.
Smile. Just smile at someone else. Smile at a child. Smile at a lonely older person. Smile at a harried mother. Smile at a tattooed and pierced teenager. Smile at someone whose skin color is different than yours. Who knows? Maybe they are doing “hard” this Christmas as well. Maybe what they need is for you to simply smile and pray.
Can you invite a neighbor over for coffee and cookies? Can you make a lunch date with a childhood friend? If you are going to be alone on Christmas morning, invite another lonely person over and share breakfast together.
If your family lives far away and there will be no Christmas gathering this year, ask your pastor if there is a family at church who needs some extra love. Plan an evening of games, Christmas movies and shared treats. Who knows? They might need you more than you need them.
Secondly, be thankful. Be thankful for Christmases past and for the blessings of yesterday. Be thankful that you live in America and are allowed to celebrate the holy and sacred time of Christmas. Be thankful for the songs of the season and for the cards that you receive in the mail. Be thankful for your health, for food and for shelter.
If you can’t find the joy of Christmas … then every day just write down one thing for which you are thankful. I have learned that “thankfulness” and “joy” are not so very far apart.
Be thankful for a pet … for a phone call … for an e-mail … for a kind word from a stranger.
The third thing that will change your perspective on Christmas this year is the decision to be a giver. Give Christmas cookies to the children next door … give a twenty dollar bill to the young mom waiting in line … give a gift card to your pastor … and give your elderly aunt a phone call!
Giving is one of the most meaningful facets of this last month of the calendar year.
Even if you know that no one is buying a gift for you … you can give of yourself to others. If you don’t have any money to buy gifts, then give of yourself. Give a family heirloom to your grandchild or a family recipe to your new daughter-in- law! Give one of your favorite books to the widow at church or volunteer to babysit for a single mom.
Clean the church … write an e-mail to a missionary … teach Sunday School … or give some time this month at the homeless shelter. There is an entire world out there that is doing “hard” this year and you can truly make it easier for at least one of them!
And if I could just gently suggest one more thing to you this Christmas season … go to church and worship. You will never truly experience Christmas in its glory and its richness without a sacred awareness of that Baby in the manger.
As you sit in the pew of a bedecked church, listen for the wonder. Listen to the ancient Words that the pastor reads from a Book that is alive with joy! Watch the children as they gather to hear about the shepherds and the angels. Join your voice with the voices of other weary pilgrims who are desperately in need of the Messiah Who has come.
And you know what? It’s o.k. if you cry … let the tears come. Jesus came for your “hard”. The reason He was born as a baby was to infiltrate your disappointment with His hope. He came to wash your discouragement away with His joy … and He came to give you a reason to sing again.
The words “hard” and “Christmas” are not mutually exclusive … they just happen to be … a perfect match!