I love Christmas! Perhaps more accurately, I love the anticipation of Christmas. I love the lights and decorations. I love the music. I love how everyone gets just a little nicer. I just love Christmas and it is generally a time of joy and happiness at my house and in my own heart. However, something I’ve noticed is that alongside the increased joy of the Christmas season is increased suffering and sorrow. In all likelihood, the amount of suffering and sorrow has not increased, but in contrast to the joy of the season I simply have a heightened awareness of it.
Though it might be sad to think of a beautiful and joyous season like Christmas shining a brighter light on suffering and sorrow, in a way it is quite appropriate. The very Savior we celebrate was Himself a living contrast to all things sad, miserable and evil. He was Light in the darkness, Water for the thirsty, Bread for the hungry, The Way for the wanderer, Truth in the face of lies, and Life for the dying. His very presence heightened the awareness of others to their own sin and darkness. In the same way, the celebration of this season often heightens our awareness to the effects of sin – like suffering. That man on the corner was likely just as cold and hungry before we put up our tree. The widow lady down the street was probably suffering with her loss just as much before the Christmas season. The parents of the child in the hospital were just as sorrowful before all the lights went up. I am just more aware because it is a greater contrast to the joyous nature of the season.
This contrast between the sorrow and joy of Christmas has had me thinking the last few days, and I’ve collected a few random thoughts about sorrow that I want to share with you in the midst of the joy of Christmas. In no particular order, here they are:
- Allow yourself to be moved with compassion at the sorrow of others. Rather than shrink from the spotlight that Christmas could throw on sorrow, go toward it and let God use you to comfort someone who is sorrowful. In doing so, we honor and imitate Christ who was often said to see someone in need and be moved with compassion. In allowing ourselves to enter into the suffering of others, we truly celebrate Christmas. After all, Christmas is all about the greatest act of compassion ever: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.
- Have hope! Sorrow is a legitimate emotion and a normal part of life. However, God does not want us to be without hope in sorrow. This is only possible in Christ, but sometimes even believers sorrow as if they had no hope. Paul spoke to the Thessalonian church in regard to their sorrow over the loss of loved ones and he urged them not to grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). If you see someone suffering this Christmas, offer them the hope of Christ. If you experience sorrow, remember your hope in Christ. No matter what this life has to throw at us, He is coming back and we will live throughout eternity with Him.
- Be mindful of sin. Too often I find someone sorrowing over pain and emptiness that is a direct result of their own sin. This is not always true, but many times it is. God even has a plan for this sorrow! Paul said in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that “godly sorrow brings repentance.” Be careful as you experience sorrow this Christmas that it is godly sorrow. You may find yourself in a situation entirely of your own doing because of sin and God wants your sorrow to lead you back to Him. This repentance may not immediately alleviate the suffering, but it will give it purpose and start you on the journey toward reconciliation with God and perhaps others.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, I trust it will be merry and joyful and peaceful, but I suspect it will also come with its share of bumps and bruises. If I’m right, these thoughts are for you so that you can join me in determining not to waste our Christmas sorrow.