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Christmas Part 1: It’s The Most Painful Time of Year

Growing up, Christmas was such a magical time of year, full of dreams, gifts, love, football, food, and family. As I grew older, Christmas lost much of its magic, but remained my favorite time of year, reminding me of memories of when I was young. The past couple of years have been more difficult for me, as I have been struggling towards my dreams, dealing with extreme anxiety, and worried about the future. I often feel that I’m missing Christmas every year in the busyness of life, my personal struggles, and my fear that I’m wasting my life.

Many people live in pain at Christmas, much more than I can comprehend. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, depression, painful memories, or something else, Christmas can often be a reminder of that which is missing in our lives, not that which is beautiful.

My favorite Christmas movie is It’s A Wonderful Life, probably because it relates to me more than any other story. Jimmy Stewart (the best actor in the history of film in my humble opinion) plays the lead character of George Bailey, a small town guy with big dreams of seeing the world. Most of you have seen this at one point or another, but if you haven’t, I highly suggest it this Christmas. Through a horrible series of events, George is forced to stay in his hometown due to many unforeseen circumstances. And yet, grace meets him in his disappointment: he falls in love, gets married, has children, and is generous with the poor in the local community. And yet, the pain of broken dreams drives him crazy, leading him to an attempted suicide. The beauty of the story arrives in him being saved from his suicide attempt by an angel, being reminded of what is important in life, and being given hope for a better future. It’s incredibly beautiful because it resonates with the human spirit’s longing for meaning, value, and legacy.

Many of us are like George Bailey, broken-hearted over failed opportunities, broken dreams, the loss of those we love, personal battles of brokenness, and insecurity about the future. Christmas is more a reminder of who we were in a darkened past than who we long to become, leading to pain and despair.

And yet, what if we returned to the heart and soul of Christmas? What if we remembered the truth that fills the human spirit with hope and joy?

“All this took place to fulfill 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”).” – Matthew 1:22-23 

Christmas is not about happiness, gifts, and tinsel. Christmas is not about being with loved ones, peppermint mochas (although these are incredible), and fancy lights.

Christmas is about one thing and one thing alone: God with us.

The Creator of the universe putting on flesh and blood to walk among our sin-sick world to redeem us from death.

In Isaiah we find what the life of Jesus was all about:

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:1-6

If you feel lost in pain, please take not that it was the Son of God who “was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”

What if we began seeking the heart of the God who is with us, even when the Holidays are painful with brokenness and sorrow? What if we took hope in Jesus who brought us life when we were lost in such great darkness?

This Christmas, I encourage you to seek the heart of the Father who is radically and furiously in love with you, so much so that He would draw near to us when we ran far from Him.

That is what Christmas is all about.