For Anyone Who Dreads Christmas

With Christmas less than three weeks away, both my spiritual moorings and seasonal sentiment are positive. Family, health, work that brings fulfillment, money enough to buy gifts for others — I’m heading into the home stretch toward Christmas with a contented smile etched on my heart.

But I know others are not so fortunate. This recession has cost lots of people their jobs and has made them dread Christmas. What could be worse than being unable to give something to the people you love during this season (barring a patient who has just learned of a malignancy or a family having its first Christmas without a key member who recently passed away last year)?

So maybe not everyone’s “joy quotient” is quite as high as mine at the mere-days-and-counting mark until Christmas. And how are things with you?

The late Henry Nouwen wrote in his journal about a “dry” Christmas he was experiencing. In his touching The Road to Daybreak, he writes:

“It just seemed that I wasn’t part of it. At times I even caught myself looking at it all like an unbeliever who wonders what everybody is so busy and excited about.”

Still, in the midst of it all I saw — even though I did not feel — that this day may prove to be a grace after all. Somehow I realized that songs, music, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners and many sweet words do not make Christmas. Christmas is saying “yes” to something beyond all emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying “yes” to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine. Things will never look just right or feel just right. If they did, someone would be lying. The world is not whole, and today I experienced this fact in my own unhappiness. But it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.

I look at him and pray, “Thank you, Lord, that you came, independent of my feelings and thoughts. Your heart is greater than mine.” Maybe a “dry” Christmas, a Christmas without much to feel or think, will bring me closer to the true mystery of God-with-us. What it asks is pure, naked faith.

Even if everything isn’t “just right” for you as Christmas approaches, trust God and know that this holy season affirms something larger than sentiment. It says that God is with you in every situation to supply the grace you need.