We’ve all heard about how Christmas is difficult for so many people. That old story of Scrooge and his problems with this season are no longer anecdotal. It seems to be par for the course for a lot of people. Maybe it always has been. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy.
I get it. I mean, it makes sense on some the level that Christmas has become a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce, or an empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. Our own family has not been immune to this.
But I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is just for the happy people. You know, those with perfect plastic family situations enjoyed around a crowded artificial tree. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS in their BMW they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.
But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Son of God is for everyone, especially those who are in need of something better. Jesus was born as a baby to understand and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not the suburban beautiful class. They were poor, tired shepherds, beat down by life and labour. They had been looked down on by so many.
Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for Facebook. Christmas is for those whose marriages have been slammed against the wall and are threatening to never come back. Christmas is for the son whose absent father never shows up. Christmas is for prostitutes, the homeless, the adulterers, and addicts who long for love in all the wrong places. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have never treasured a the family name and fortune and want just want “home” but cannot find it. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray. Christmas is for the father who misses his children and his wife.
Christmas is really all about the gospel of grace and hope. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, that tiny, dirty manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who fear it the most.