It's just about the middle of December and Christmas, as has happened in so many years past, always seems to sneak right up on me. I hear the music, watch holiday sales, see the decorations (right after Halloween) and witness the nativity scenes going up (minus their baby Jesus), as I drive past one church after another. Despite all that, year after year, I never seem to be ready. I don’t remember the last time I had, “The Christmas Spirit.” I wish I could I say it was just the holiday blues, but it’s just enhancing an already miserable ennui that I sometimes find residing in me.
Please... don’t say any variation of, “cheer up.” or “look on the bright side.” Don’t invalidate what someone is going through because you may not understand.
For some of us in that moment, there is no bright side. We are struggling, whether in our marriages or with our children. We are suffering from years of illness and pain. Death and heartache may have recently visited our doorsteps or it's been awhile and it's just hard to go on when something that used to be there, no longer is. Maybe some of us do suffer from depression. Real, clinical depression. Some of us honestly feel alone in the world, even in a crowded room.
I know it’s hard to watch that unfold. It’s a joyous, wondrous, magical time of the year. How can anyone -at least anyone close to me- feel that way? I guarantee you, it happens more than you could possibly know. Somewhere in that work party or at that Christmas Eve family gathering, someone is wrestling to force a smile in an attempt to look happy so no one will notice. And let’s be honest, it’s a party. Unless you’re sobbing in a corner, swigging down a whole bottle of wine, it’s one of the easiest places to hide your feelings.
If you happen to be one of those people that do take notice? Take a seat, listen if they want to talk or be silent if they don’t. It doesn’t sound like the most festive thing to do at this time of the year, but it can be a gift. The gift of loving and caring for that person, right where they are. Listening to stories or even crying alongside them. Giving them more attention then they may get all year long, especially in a season where they may feel even more invisible and alone than normal. It's letting them know they're loved, just the way they are in that moment.
In a few days, Christmas will be here, and as is the tradition with some churches and in some homes, a little fake baby will be placed in mangers everywhere to remind us of what this holiday represents.
A Savior born.
A Savior who came to rescue us in our worst mess of sin and sorrow.
A Savior who loves us in all our deepest depression and pain.
A Savior who weeps with us in our most profound losses and loves us right where we are.
Whatever your mood, whatever you're feeling, you are greatly loved.
Prayers and hope to you for this Christmas season.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:10-14 ESV)
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?