What Are You Feeling This Christmas?
As Christmas approaches this week, many people will be feeling many different emotions. There will a great deal of joy, a lot of laughter, and after a big Christmas meal, there will be contented sleepiness. There will be childish delight, and there will be the happy tears of families and friends being reunited.
But there will also be many people with mixed emotions. There are those who are still separated from loved ones, and who miss them deeply. There are those who are lonely, and who longingly remember more ‘full’ Christmases gone by. There are those for whom the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas trigger memories of past hurt. There are those who wish time with the family was a cheery event, but who need to navigate the minefield of strained or damaged relationships.
And perhaps the most common experience is of a mixture of all the above.
As I think of all the emotions that we feel at Christmas, my mind goes back to that first Christmas, and all the different emotions that were experienced then.
I think of young Mary, a teenage virgin about to give birth to a child who an angel told her “…will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (Luke 1:32). She was giving birth in a stable far from home, exhausted after a long journey on a donkey’s back.
I think of Joseph, wishing he could provide better for his wife.
I think of the joy which comes following the safe arrival of a child.
I think of the shepherds on the hill that night, scared witless by the full host of heaven suddenly appearing, but then filled with joy when they discover that the long-awaited Saviour had finally arrived.
I think of the wise men, far away in the lands to the east. Their whole lives they had sought to plumb the mysteries of existence and suddenly a sign appeared which must mean only one thing: the God which the Hebrews claimed to follow, whose scrolls of prophecy they had read, was real, and had sent into the world a Saviour, a King who would rule forever. Imagine the excitement as they re-read the scrolls and set off to find that king!
And I think of infant Jesus, laid in an animal’s feeding trough. The one who the fuss is all about. The one for whom no welcome is truly grand enough, because he is God himself. Fully God, but also fully man. Born into the least majestic situation imaginable, into all of this mixed emotion. And born not to raise up armies and build palaces, but to care for the sick and poor, to preach a message of salvation for sinners, and to earn that salvation by handing himself over to a painful death.
That first Christmas was one of mixed emotions. Much like this one now. And the One we celebrate at Christmas was right there in the middle of it. He lived through all the difficulty that life throws at us, so he knows and cares about what we are experiencing far more deeply than we could ever imagine.
So, whether you are rejoicing, relaxing, or having fun this Christmas, remember the reason why we rejoice: because God gave us the greatest gift we could ever imagine, Himself.
And if Christmas is a time of sadness, hurt, loneliness, or mixed emotion for you, remember that first night. The reason Jesus came from heaven to earth was to fix the problem of sin that has damaged our world and separated us from our God. If your trust is in him, he is here with you now. He sees every hurt and he cares deeply. And when he returns, he will restore this world and his people, taking away all the hurt. Ushering in an eternal kingdom which will be so much better than the best memories you have and better than the best celebration you could ever imagine.
Whatever you are feeling this Christmas, I hope that looking back to the first Christmas helps you to find a deeper joy and comfort in this season.
I look forward to seeing you at our Christmas services this weekend!