We’re told it’s the “most wonderful time of the year” but, for many, nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the baubles, carols and food, the Christmas period can seem a dismal few days for those struggling with past losses, present tensions or future fears.
Many housebound elderly will see no-one on Christmas day. Children in poverty will receive few gifts. The bereaved may put on a brave face but, underneath the façade, hearts will be breaking at the memories of those no longer gathered around the festive table. Those suffering domestic violence may tremble at the thought of having to get the meal “just right”. Those single or childless (despite yearning for a family) often look on the festivities of others with a strange mix of love, jealousy and despair. Then there are the homeless, the long-term unemployed, the chronically ill, those feeling hopeless, each reminded that yet another year has passed and “not enough” seems to have changed. Will the coming year be any different?
Few draw attention to their Christmas struggles – most of us prefer to pretend everything is just fine – after all, it’s the one time of year every Christian is supposed to enjoy, isn’t it? But on those occasions when people express a little of their pain, there is much we can do.
We can listen – setting aside time to really hear what Christmas is like for them. We can pray – asking God to pour in his comfort and strength. We can act – opening our homes to those who would value some company or a meal (or, if we are going to be away, we can pop round a meal before we go). And we can also reflect – taking some time away from the buying and basting to sit with those who hurt and ponder afresh the implications of the incarnation.
So why not contact a friend, take one of these passages – or pick another part of Scripture that speaks of God come down – and ponder afresh what it tells us about God, his world and his transforming, sustaining love for his people?
• Understanding: (Colossians 1:15)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
• Intimacy: (Matthew 1:22-23)
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet, ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).
• Communication: (Hebrews 1:2-3)
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
• Truth: (John 1:14)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
• Light: (John 1:9)
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
• Hope: (Romans 8:3)
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh.
• Peace: (Isaiah 9:6)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
• Salvation: (Luke 2:29-32)
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’
• Eternal life: (John 1:1-2)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Go on – plan to spend a little time reflecting on the incarnation with someone who is hurting right now. Honestly, the sprouts can wait …