The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.” So it says the prophet Isaiah in our reading for today, and yet for some of us, the Christmas season can seem anything but bright. In fact, for some of us, these can be days that are sad and painful and lonely. We’re supposed to be happy, but we aren’t. And no matter how hard we try to get into the spirit of the holiday, we just end up pretending, putting on a bright face and waiting for these days to pass. The truth is this is a hard time of year for lots of folks. It’s a hard time of year for those who remember the joyful Christmases of their childhood, but a sense of sadness dims the brightness of the season because they can’t help thinking about all the people they have loved and lost, and whose absence at Christmas makes their hearts ache. It’s a hard time of year for those who have no memories of a joyful Christmas, because they have no memories of a joyful family, and the holidays leave them feeling left out and unable to relate. It’s a hard time of year for those who are grieving because of the ending of a relationship or the death of someone they love, someone whose absence makes the holidays almost unbearable. It’s a hard time of year for those who are struggling with their health or suffering from the virus or who, because of pandemic, are separated from family and friends. It’s a hard time of year for those who have lost their jobs and wonder how they will provide for their families. For these, and lots of other reasons, Christmas can be quite difficult and it’s important that we acknowledge this truth, while also reminding ourselves that we aren’t alone.
In our American culture, Christmas is all about tinsel and lights and Santa and reindeers and ho-ho-ho and Hallmark movies that are all too sweet and wonderful. But that is not the Christmas of the Bible. Rather, the Christmas of the Bible is built for those of us who are blue during these days. In fact, Christ’s birth is God’s way of speaking directly into our loss and our grief and our sadness and our worry, to bring us hope in the midst of darkness. The real truth of Christmas, the real heart of Christmas, is that Christ came into the world to be one of us, to join with us, to walk the road of life alongside us and experience all the things, good and bad, that we experience.
We don’t worship a God who is far off and who’s distant. We have a God who loves us enough to take on human flesh and literally walk in our shoes. As a result, our God knows firsthand about loss and grief, worry, and pain, and what it means to struggle in this life. The Reverend Dave Simpson, in a wonderful piece he wrote about Blue Christmas said, “That baby boy was born into the real world, a world where a powerful empire, Rome, could cruelly, dominate the Jewish people into which the boy was born. It was a world where a pregnant woman and her betrothed could not find anyone who would take them in, so they had to deliver their child in a place where the animals are fed. It was a world in which a cruel King, King Herod, would order all of the children under two years of age to be killed because of his jealousy and fear of a newborn King. And it was a world in which that baby would grow up and be hung on a cross until he died. Even though he was the only person who ever lived, who never sinned, who never deserved death at all, much less to be humiliated and executed as a criminal. Jesus is a real savior born into a real world, into a world in which we live. He was not immune to the disappointments and sadness and suffering and grief that we experience. In fact, that was kind of the point. You see, whatever it is that we are going through, whatever it is that is interfering with our ability to celebrate Christmas, whether it’s in the news or in our personal lives, or in our very being, Jesus understands because he’s been there, or more accurately because he’s been here.”
Where is the joy of Christmas? For me, it resides in the truth that we are not alone in our struggles. We have a God who journeys this life with us. For me, the joy of Christmas resides in the fact that because God has come among us in the Christ child, our lives have been hallowed. All of our lives, our triumphs and our tragedies, our joys and our sorrows. Christ has come down in order to lift all of us up to God.
The truth is, it’s okay if we struggle during this time of year, it’s okay to have a blue Christmas. Just know that you are not alone. Just know that things can get better. Just know that hope has been born into the world.
Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set the people free. From our fears and sins release us. Let us find our rest in thee. Amen.