What Christmas Means for the Hurting
Amid the festive lights and joyful gatherings are those who hurt.
Amid the festive lights and joyful gatherings are those who hurt. For some, Christmas is not the happy time as portrayed in commercials. Rather, it only highlights the sadness. Perhaps the family gathering reveals the empty chair once holding a lost loved one. Or maybe lonely singles see the gleeful children opening gifts to the delight of their parents and long for a family of their own. A wife in a breaking marriage has to show up without her husband and face the questions. A couple burdened with infertility are constantly reminded of a birth that they would love to have. Songs and ornaments bring memories of better times that have faded into the distant past.
The Christmas season has a way of highlighting our hurts. Many will put on the happy face for the festivities but the mask hides pain within. The lit trees, green garlands and joyful tunes only twist the knife.
And yet, the Christmas season celebrates God’s answer to all our hurts. Obscured by the commercial frills and colorful merchandise is heaven’s response to the anguish that erupts from life under sin.
In turning from God’s commands, the whole human race has plunged itself into the destruction of sin. We have turned from what is truly good for the evil that sounds more promising. Now we are estranged from the source of all good, the designer of our hearts and provider for all our needs. Death now reigns in the midst of life. We are born into trouble (Job 5:7), into a meaningless existence (Eccl. 2). Slaves to ambitions and pleasures, we destroy our bodies and spirits faster. Fear and shame fuel hatred for one another (Tit. 3:3). Even God’s good law now marks us guilty (Rom. 3:9-20). All creation groans (Rom. 8:22). Because of our sin against God, toil and sorrow mark our path. This is “normal” in this broken world.
However, God did not leave us in our misery. One evening, in an unremarkable corner of the world, an angel appeared to a group of shepherds to announce a newborn baby. This was no ordinary child. This baby is the Savior. Christ the Lord. Jesus was born and the world will never be the same again. God has come to save us. In the darkness a light appeared that would light up the world (John 1:4-5). Because he has come, the dead will rise. The blind will see. The lost will be found. The weak will be strong. Chains will fall to the ground. Justice will triumph. Tears will turn to laughter and weeping will turn to dancing. Sins will be forgiven. Instead of being God’s enemies bound for destruction, we will be his children bound for glory (Gal. 4:4-7).
In the fullness of time, God will do all of this and even more than we ask or imagine (Eph 4:20). A baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and laying in a manger will one day make the impossible happen before our eyes. Never again will they sorrow. Never again will they mourn (Rev 21:4). This simple baby in humble surroundings will banish all evil and rule the world in righteousness (Isa 11:1-9). His life of perfect righteousness, death on the cross for sins, victorious resurrection, ascension to heaven and return in glory will be our complete salvation.
In this Christmas season, you who sorrow, rejoice! You who hurt, lift up your head! God has seen the sorrow and misery on earth. He has not turned away, but has come to share our burdens (Heb 4:15) and make us more than conquerors over them (Rom 8:35-37). Suffering forces us to look at Christmas in a new way. Underneath the festive frills and lighted greens, the gatherings and familiar tunes is the true meaning of Christmas. When the Christmas lights and presents no longer lift our spirits, when the hurt cries out for true hope, we find the Christ of Christmas. Sing and worship through the tears because the Lord has come.
"Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 12:6).
Aaron Vriesman was ordained in 2006 and has served North Blendon CRC in Hudsonville, Michigan for 15 years.