Christmas is for the heavy-hearted

Photo by Barna Kovács

We’re approaching the middle of December. For as much joy that’s in the air, this time of the year also carries a heavy sadness and angst for many.

If you’re in this boat, it can feel like the holidays aren’t for you, but rather for those happy, jolly people over there singing their carols and taking those perfect selfies with shopping bags stuffed to the brim.

And you may be right. ‘The holidays’ might be for ‘them’. But Christmas — at least, in the tradition I follow — is for you.

Not the secular, consumerist Western brand of Christmas (not to hate on it — there’s a big place in my heart for the good ole’ commercialized American Christmas), but the one that emerges from the life of a king who was born in a rickety old barn and who died a failure as far as Western (or even Near Eastern) measurables go. He wasn’t big on SMART goals. His success rate was sorely lacking. He didn’t ‘crush it’ in the success department.

This was a God who slipped into skin and entered the experience of the lowly, not to shame or even change the sorrowful, but to live and love in solidarity with them.

I’ve spent many Christmas seasons on the heavy-hearted boat. Even today, as I’ve somehow ended up with a nice spot in life, good health, a few bucks in the bank, a loving family, great friends and family, etc., I jump on and off of this boat all season long.

But now I see, as I deepen in my faith, that Christmas is for the heavy-hearted.

Because it’s in these low moments that our hearts can truly be expanded and our vision restored. When we’re down in it, we yearn to feel — really feel — loved and secure in the midst of our sorrow. In short, we demand something from God because we sure as hell aren’t finding it in the earthly realm.

When you have it all, I can’t help but think you might have a hard time connecting with the depth and density that the bleakness of this Christmas season carries with it.

When you’ve built up enough material wealth and security (whatever that exact dollar amount is, I’m not sure) you’ve ‘made it’ as far as our culture is concerned. You’re a fully self-sufficient individual. How can you remain receptive and open to the divine mystery behind all of life when everything has fallen into place for you?

Some do, but it takes a humbleness that many in such a high stature lack (or may have abandoned when their ship came in).

I’d imagine — and maybe I’m wrong — that you might see yourself as God. Because who needs God when you’re financially set living in the US? You’re it! You’ve won the game!

But what does life look like when you become God? When the dominion of God stops at the boundaries of your vulnerable flesh, how does this feel?

I’d imagine it’d be a shaky place to live. Perhaps like sitting atop a very tall ladder with emptiness above you and the possibility of a very long fall below you.

And so this note goes out as a hopeful message to the sorrowful and heavy-hearted this Christmas.

Christmas, my friend, is for you. May God meet you and embrace you where you are and may you know, if even from a whisper within, that you are loved.

Amen.

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