Ed Jones, Pastor, Fellowship at the Ranch Church
By the time you read this, the Christmas season will be in full swing! Houses are decorated with festive lights, shoppers galore are looking for that special gift, and Christmas music is playing wherever you go. With all of the hustle and bustle that comes with Christmas, it may seem as though real life is put on hold for a while.
However, for some, Christmas brings about challenges. They call it “holiday depression syndrome.” Many people seem to struggle over Christmas.
Although Christmas is a joyous time for many, it’s equally hard for others. We shouldn’t be surprised. Joy and sorrow have always been part of the Christmas story.
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” said the angel to the shepherds (Luke 2:10). “This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed,” said Simeon to Joseph and Mary (Luke 34-35). There’s joy in Jesus’ birth. But there are also the harsh realities of life: poverty, oppression, and pain. Both are part of the Christmas story.
A seminary professor argues that churches need to recover the lost art of lament. So many of the psalms are laments, he says. The psalmist teaches us to pour out our hearts to God, and to be honest about our pain. It’s a good idea to break the image of the Christian life as pure, unbridled happiness, he says. We need joy in our expressions of worship, and we also need expressions of sorrow and grief. Both are part of worship.
The same is true of Christmas. We need to make room for joyous celebration. But we need to make room in our Christmas for honest expressions of pain. There is room in the Christmas story for our pain.
So, rejoice in Christmas. It’s okay to feast, exult, and celebrate.
But let’s also learn to lament at Christmas, too. Jesus was born to poor, teenage parents who were far from home, and who became refugees. He was raised in a country that was under foreign oppression. Contrary to the Christmas carol that says, “no crying he made,” Jesus cried. He hungered. The baby born at Christmas grew to be the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). He was the baby, after all, who was born to die.
The older I get, the more I’m grateful that God makes room not only for our joy, but for the full range of emotions we experience—including the emotions of those who struggle at Christmas.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you His peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
Ed Jones pastors Fellowship at the Ranch Church at Robson Ranch. This nondenominational church meets at the Robson clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. For information, visit Fellowship’s website www.fellowshipattheranchchurch.com.