When I was young, I awaited Christmas like everyone else, excited to see what might lay under the tree. I loved waking up early and walking out to see the tree lit and presents waiting for us. It was an unknown goodness that we were about to receive. Christmas morning was always wonderful, but what led up to Christmas wasn’t always a hope filled anticipation for me.
What would the holidays bring?
I grew up as a child of divorce. Since my parents divorced when I was a baby, it was really all I knew. A single mom household was the norm, and most of the time I was okay with it. Although, every year around the beginning of November a darkness would hover over me. That’s the time of the year when everyone else started to talk about holiday plans and how excited they were for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was also the time of year when I began to have anxiety for what the holidays may bring.
Confronted with reality
I realized early on that it was easier to deal with the brokenness of our family situation by simply NOT dealing with it. Ignoring it was cleaner and tidier than actually having to confront it head on. Most of the year that worked, but not at Christmas. Christmas was like me crashing into reality. And reality hurt. Everyone expected their time with you and there was pressure to make that time special.
Awaiting Christmas, Full of Anxiety
Maybe it’s not like that for every child of divorce, but I was the child who wouldn’t enjoy my time at home because I knew that in a few hours we would head off to my dad’s and my mom would be sad. I wouldn’t enjoy my time at my dad’s because I knew that this was one of the few times we would hang out and it felt like we didn’t even know each other. I was the child who could sense the tension between everyone in the room, and just wanted to get away from that situation as soon as possible. Anxiety had rule over me during the Christmas season and awaiting Christmas was even harder. Despite my best efforts to enjoy the comforting aspects of Christmas, I found that the anxiety would take over and make it hard to enjoy the best parts of the holiday.
Don’t get me wrong, I had good memories of Christmas. It was exciting to me just like every other child. There was peace during the week we had off of school. A pause from everything else. My siblings and I got along pretty well, so time off was usually time well spent. I loved looking at Christmas lights as a kid and we would drive around to look at the best houses in town. It was fun. There was laughter and joy. But in the midst of everything good there was this lingering anxiety that would keep me down. Awaiting Christmas became tainted to me by the brokenness of this world.
Jesus in the Brokenness
I gave my life to Jesus at the age of five and have never looked back. I have been amazed by Jesus more and more as I’ve discovered who He is. One thing that He has helped me realize over the years, is just how special the incarnation truly was. God becoming flesh is pretty amazing. But think about all the other details involved. He left His throne, His Majesty, to become a man in a broken world. He experienced pain, suffering, loss, mourning, and grief. And He chose this! He chose to come into this world knowing all the things that would come upon Him. What would cause anyone to choose suffering over not suffering? LOVE! It is the only answer to that question. God truly loved us in a way that can’t be described with words. He came to a broken world, on purpose, to give broken people HOPE! Jesus stepped into the mess that we had made. He stepped into the brokenness that surrounded us. In stepping down into the darkness of the world, He is able to shine even brighter, bringing PEACE to man.
I was so glad when Jesus helped me to see this through His eyes. Now, if anxiety tries to rule me at the holidays, I turn my eyes to Jesus and remember His choice. He chose to step into our brokenness out of His love for us. This brings me JOY.
Christmas in Children’s Ministry
As a children’s ministry leader, I have found that Christmas is stressful to many of the kids we minister to. I can see it on their faces when the other kids are excitedly sharing their Christmas plans. How do we help those children at this time of year? Have you ever taken the time to ask that question? Whatever the reason is for their anxiety or stress at the holidays, it all comes down to the brokenness of this world.
Love, Hope, Peace
I like to remind kids that Jesus was FULLY MAN and FULLY GOD. He experienced our broken world. The hurt, pain, and suffering; Jesus endured it all, and most importantly, He chose it over a life free of all suffering. He chose to come in the flesh for one reason—-because He loved us. Jesus couldn’t leave us in this broken world. The only way to fix it was for Him to become one of us. So He did, out of His love for us. I like to remind kids that Jesus is with us, loving on us, even in the midst of our brokenness. He brings LOVE, HOPE, and PEACE to us no matter what our situation looks like.
Are you awaiting Christmas with the love, hope, and peace that Jesus brings to our broken world? Maybe the holidays are hard for you or your kids? I’d like to hear ways that you deal with the brokenness of life during the holiday season, and how you help the kids you minister to deal with it as well.