It's Just Not Christmas
It’s Just Not Christmas:
When the Holidays are Hard
By Sara Kernan
I’m doing all the right things. Christmas music is playing and Michael Bublé & Pentatonix are serenading the season into existence. Christmas cookies have been made and shared. The work holiday party has been attended. Warm lights line the house and a distinct smell of peppermint and pine bloom in the air.
But it’s just not Christmas.
I would consider myself the Queen of Christmas. I love all things Yuletide and grew up with rich Christmas traditions. But, the older I get the more I recognize how loss and grief can stain the fabric of this holiday season and how lament can go unheard in the roar of celebration. I know how candlelight services can feel more isolating than an empty house. How travel home can be a tearful experience. How loss is more keenly felt as sentences like “remember how grandma would...” sneak out and fall as unfinished thoughts.
My first semester at college was the first holiday season that my family was going through without my Grandma Ann lighting up the world. My heart groaned under the hurt of being thousands of miles away from my hurting family and I made a last minute decision to go home. It was one of the richest weeks of my life despite the weight of loss we all felt. It was my first taste of how hard the holidays can be. I know it wouldn’t be the last. The grief that season wasn’t even purely mine. It was second-hand, as the momma I love leans under the weight of the holidays without her mother.
Holidays are hard. Holidays are harder than most days not just because of the milestones they represent but because of how we smother out room for grief in times of joy.
“Merry Christmas” is the token phrase, not “I need support.” We exchange presents instead of thoughts, broad seasons greetings without personal investment.
And sometimes holidays are hard but we don’t recognize it, because things aren’t THAT bad, or “others have it worse”. These lies simply grow our pain and drive us from community.
To the unemployed, whose tree is present-less. To the orphaned, the widowed, the alone. To those feeling alone in a crowded sanctuary. To the hungry in spirit, in joy, in stomach. To the community-less, isolated, ostracized, abandoned and forgotten. To the depressed with a painted smile. To the overworked, exhausted, breadwinner. To the away at home, Face-Timing and tearful celebrator. To the heartbroken and downcast. To the new-to-town and figuring it out. To the survivor, the fighter, the bruised. To the numb in faith and heart. mmm
I see you.
This hard holiday season will not unglue you. If we go back to the reason for the season we are at the beginning, the birth of the King. And thank goodness it doesn’t end at that manger. This is just the beginning and the hope of something beyond started at Christmas but ends with a resurrected King. I’m not saying you’re not hurting, believe me, I’m with you. It’s just perhaps the idea of crescendoing our year into the festivities is remiss. So much more is coming. Hope was born this season, it does not end here. There is more than grief right now.
If no one is kind to you this holiday season and life seems like your enemy, may I be the first to say, I see you. And I am with you. Your broken pieces are not too much and lucky for you, I got some too. Let’s carry them together and look to what the manger pointed too all along: hope.
Photo By Johnathan Knepper