While many of us have Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge and crumbs still on the floor, this Black Friday supposedly marks the beginning of “the most wonderful time of the year.” Between a late Thanksgiving and the fact that everyone I know feels like the earth is spinning faster than it used to — the holidays are blurring together. I’m hosting a party in a few days, and the fall colors of bounty are definitely clashing with the reds of Advent.
I wonder how many people have a similar battle silently occurring in their hearts today? Wonderful, faithful people who just mustered up the courage to thank God in their hardships. And now they feel they have to stuff their feelings entirely — because sometimes it feels like Christmas gives us one of two choices: be holly jolly or be the grinch.
It feels very unChristian to be sad or lacking a festive spirit today, but feelings aren’t facts. We all need a little help sometimes. Despite every desire to be decking the halls and spreading good cheer, some people are blue today. They just can’t muster up the energy, peace or joy to face the Christmas season. They’re looking forward to January 2nd — when things can just be normal again.
2008 was “that year” for me. I wanted to pull myself up by the boot straps… but unfortunately, despite loving Jesus and my children with all my heart, and willing my heart to be joyful — I had a bad case of the blues.
Usually, I love Christmas but in 2008… I just wanted to curl up and let it pass me by.
If you’re so blessed that you’ve never experienced a truly blue Christmas, let me help you understand. It doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t have faith, or that they don’t love and trust Jesus. Their heart might even be bursting with the Joy of the Lord. It’s a condition way beyond fake it til you make it, and it’s nothing like the indifference of bah humbug.
Many of these dear blue Christians care very deeply about the true meaning of Christmas. They are simultaneously in a season of long-suffering — fighting illness, loneliness, grief or any number of scenarios of brokenness. They, like us, are the hurting, weak sinners that the Christ child came to save and redeem.
But this Christmas — they can’t quite make themselves celebrate the way the world wants us to — the way we’ve grown so accustomed to. The warm, familiar scenes depicted in the art of Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kincade feel far away. They are taunted by wrapping paper, store windows and the songs and carols blasting from every retail speaker. They are outsiders in a world smitten with “Christmas spirit,” and it hurts.
Maybe you’re buying your tree and decorating while the gangs all here? Or visiting with family and friends? Hunting? Playing games? Watching football? It’s great and worthy to enjoy family, friends and all the festivities. But take a minute this season to think of those around you… to look behind their eyes, and ask yourself who might be experiencing Christmas as the most difficult time of the year?
One very cold morning that December of 2008, two precious sisters came to my door with two bales of pine straw, a thermos of hot chocolate and some odds and ends to build a strawman. They coaxed me out of my PJs and into the yard to decorate. There’s nothing sacred about decorating — with straw, snow, tinsel or anything else — but there was something holy and good about two people noticing my paralyzing blues, and caring enough to show up and do something out of love for me. They put skin on Jesus that day.
When I really needed it, they gave a tangible reminder of their love and of Jesus’ love. It made a big difference. Not in my faith, salvation or circumstances, but in my ability to make it through the “secular side” of Christmas. And the truth is, most of us are caught up in some of the trappings. It just feels bad if we don’t fit in enough to “do Christmas” in some of the familiar ways, even if we know Jesus and love Him with all our hearts.
Two people loving me face to face changed Christmas of 2008 for my family, by simply bringing hugs and a warm drink and leaving behind a token of love. Would you consider adding a reminder to your Christmas list to deliver some “strawmen” this year? Whatever your circumstances and creative spin calls for — give the love of Jesus to someone whose name might not be on your list — except simply as Strawman.