Christmas, like most major holidays I suppose, is a weird time. It’s weird because it accentuates the joy of some and the pain of others. Some of our newsfeeds are overflowing with cuteness, images and announcements of the love and meaning that fills our lives. Others of us hide from all the public displays of merriment because they only serve to highlight the pain we feel about the loss or lack of those things in our own.
I feel this awkward tension of truth perhaps because I have belonged to both categories of people. As a child when my father was terminally ill and eventually lost, the warmth and seeming wholeness of the Christmas season felt like salt in a wound. And tonight, as I look at the tiny stocking hanging between mine and my husband’s, I thank God for his abundance but also am reminded of the countless men, women, and children whose own families have been taken from them.
Sometimes I wonder, “Which experience is more true? More in touch with reality, able to connect me more fully to the riches of Christmas?” Tonight I realized that the answer is both. Both our seasons of abundance and fullness—and our seasons of pain and isolation—belong to and are crucial in understanding the depth of the Christmas story: Jesus did enter the world in a loving family. His parents embraced him from the moment of his birth. Their reality was one of togetherness, love, and community. So when we experience glimpses of that ourselves, it’s a reminder of how things ought to be.
And yet, Jesus entered this loving family so that others could be brought in. His whole purpose in taking on flesh wasn’t to live his own version of the American (Israeli?) dream, but to seek out those who’d been abandoned, betrayed, who’d run away, who can’t find their way Home. He became a son for the sake of the orphan.
If your Christmas experience this year is laced with pain, know that Jesus came for you. He came to heal what is broken, to fill what is empty, to restore what has been taken. He came so that you might no longer feel like an outsider, but be brought into the Family. And if your Christmas experience this year is full of warmth and togetherness and wholeness, know that Jesus calls you to do as He did, and give it all away. Open the doors of your home and invite others in. Share what you have been given rather than hoard it for yourself. Incarnate the love of the One whose Family is constituted not by biology or law, but by Love.