Christmas time is here, and, as it always does, Christmas intersects with our everyday lives. You don't schedule Christmas, it arrives no matter what is happening. Remember when you were a kid and played "hide-and-seek?" After the countdown, the person who was "it" would call out, ready or not, here I come!
Well, Jesus did that very thing when He was birthed into His very own created humanity over 2000 years ago. Whether we were ready or not, there He was... and there He IS today. The arrival of Christmas creates a crossroads in our lives. Whatever we are experiencing (good or bad, joyful or traumatic) Christmas comes. Jesus comes. Here are some very typical crossroads people deal with at this time of year:
1: At the Crossroads of Hope and Disappointment:
An unwanted medical diagnosis, the destruction of a relationship through broken trust, the loss of a career, the death of a loved one, and other similar life events don't reschedule themselves for Christmas. How can one experience hope when life seems so disappointing? Jesus creates hope first and foremost because of who He is, not what He does. Jesus IS hope, Jesus does not just dispense hope.
The hard truth is that hope is hard to experience during disappointment. We may cry out to Jesus like Mary and Martha did "If you had been here, this wouldn't have happened." Jesus will weep with us because He empathizes in our condition.
2: At the Crossroads of Joy and Depression:
If you are a person who suffers with depression, Christmas has the potential to deepen the darkness. The increased light only reveals the severity of your own darkness. Am I right? If you experience shame because of the depression, then highlighting the depression only deepens the shame, and a whirlpool of destruction begins that wants to suck you under into even deeper depths of pain. Like Peter, who began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus while walking on water, we must keep our eyes on Jesus while we're in our most fragile places. Just take Jesus' hand. He's not going to shame you more for feeling depression and shame. He will take your hand and lift you up.
3: At the Crossroads of Anxiety and Peace:
Panic attacks and anxiety are the polar opposite of peace. One is chaos and the other is the absence of chaos. But, for those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, the worst advice you can hear is, "Just stop that." Seriously? People would stop it in a moment if they could, but the solution is never that easy. It is good news that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He is the Ruler that can remove the chaos. We need an on-going process of taking our chaos captive and submitting it to the Lordship of Jesus. Cast your cares on Him this Christmas, because He cares for you.
4: At the Crossroads of Exclusion and Inclusion:
People shun one another. We do this for various reasons. We view them as untouchable because of sin, behavior, actions, choices, language, disagreement, status, you name it. Are you getting shunned this Christmas in any way, shape or form? If you are, then you can't stand the images of whole families gathered or friends embracing over exchanging perfect gifts. You likely can't even stomach the pasted-on smiles of those who are not interested in your pain. Jesus includes. People exclude. If you are excluded for any reason this Christmas, reach upward and outward to Jesus. If you're fortunate, you'll find a person who knows Jesus who is willing to include you with no strings attached. You will also save yourself much pain and heartache by forgiving those who shunned you and freeing yourself to be healed.
5: At the Crossroads of Illness and Healing:
Why am I sick at Christmas!? Why am I going through this chronic illness? Why? Illness, sickness and disease are part of the human condition. There was plenty of it when Jesus was born. There is plenty of it today. Jesus is all about restoration based on His presence, not just His miracles. Jesus has already provided for your eternity while in the midst of this temporary, broken body. Christmas is a time to stare into eternity, even while in the midst of our temporary. Our bodies grow weak, suffer, hurt, break, and ultimately die. Jesus is LIFE. It's already provided for. Earthly illness may disrupt your earthly celebration, but the eternal healing of Jesus will present you to the Father spotless and whole in eternity. Amen!
Ready or not, here comes Christmas...
Let the disappointed find hope;
Let the depressed find joy;
Let the anxious find peace;
Let the excuded find inclusion;
Let the ill find wholeness.
In the powerful name of Christ Jesus who lives and reigns in heaven now and forever more. AMEN.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.