There’s a lot of “holly, jollying” associated with Christmas. “Merry Christmas!” has become a rallying cry for some, but even if not, “Happy Holidays!” is the standard greeting. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but not for everyone. For some, Christmas is a terrible time—bringing a sense of loneliness, of inadequacy, of regret. Some churches have “Blue Christmas” services close to December 21, the day that, in our part of the world, has the longest night, acknowledging that Christmas is a hard time of the year for some—perhaps for many of us.
I think that the Bible acknowledges the reality of darkness, even in telling the Christmas story. According to Luke, Mary and Joseph were caught up in the impersonal dictates of the Roman Empire, forced into a dangerous trip when Mary was pregnant. And the angels came to shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night, which is just another way of saying that they worked nonstop, around the clock, because the dangers out there were real. According to Matthew, the wise men, after finding Jesus, went home by another way because King Herod was a threat to Jesus, and Joseph and Mary were forced to flee their home with their child, becoming refugees in Egypt, because of the danger. There is darkness in these stories, and while there is also light and hope and joy to the world at Christmas, the Bible is clear that the darkness is not gone. Indeed, it seems like the Bible is making a point that it is precisely into the very real darkness of life that God comes in Jesus to be with us there.
I don’t know how your Christmas is. I wish you well, to be sure, but I can affirm that, no matter how your Christmas is, God is with you and yearns for you to know that you, no matter how deep the darkness, you are loved.
–Pastor Don Steele