There’s a lot to love about Christmas. I love traditions. I love the wild and hard to get your head around upside-down-ness of the Christmas Story—God as a little human baby, not born in a palace or a place of comfort but in a dirty, smelly stable.
The waiting of advent.
Hope born out of patience and not knowing the end of the story.
Jesus breaking through into the world, bringing a new reality.
But regardless of how much there is to appreciate about this time of year, the truth is many of us deeply struggle with the holidays. The time from Thanksgiving to Christmas can be like a big black hole, stirring up so many feelings of loneliness, confusion, and pain.
The reality of broken families.
A fragile faith that’s hanging on by a thread.
Unmet desire for children and a spouse that roars this time of year.
A reminder of loss of certain relationships.
Stress about rent and money and how little there is.
An “I’m not valuable” feeling that can’t be shaken.
The list is much longer than this, and it pulls away the joy and hope of Christmas. It makes some of us want to run for the hills instead of sing fa-la-la. It cuts deep into abandonment wounds and makes everything inside us scream, “Hide, protect, shut-down.”
But here’s what’s amazing.
Every year, I see people around me showing up and trying to stay in on Christmas even when it hurts.
My one friend Samantha* is the best example of this. With no living parents and a deep desire for a partner and kids, she would gladly hibernate the entire month of December and wake up on January 1st, ready to re-engage.
Despite her instinct to hide and shut down, she keeps showing up.
She keeps staying in as honestly as she can—sharing her real feelings, but also not letting her real feelings consume her.
She makes plans with safe friends.
She finds ways to take good care of her soul in the midst.
She talks honestly about her desire.
She cries herself to sleep but gets up the next day, wipes the tears off her cheeks and goes to work to help other people.
Yeah, she keeps showing up.
It’s so beautiful, so brave.
And I can’t help but think it is the Christmas story.
A story that doesn’t make sense.
A story we want to make clean and neat and tidy and simple, but is actually a big hot mess like most of our lives.
A story that keeps pointing us toward hope.
That there’s more than meets the eye.
That God is at work underneath the pain and the suffering and the ways-life-isn’t-at-all-what-we-expected.
That’s what my courageous, tenacious friend Samantha is teaching me this Advent.
Even when it hurts, keep showing up.
*not her real name