There are just few pictures of my childhood Christmases, but one of my favorites is of my brother, Fred. He’s probably 11 or 12, holding his “big” Christmas present of that year. It was a Risk game. I don’t know what he wanted for Christmas that year, but from his facial expression, it was quite evident that a game of Risk was not on the list. If a picture speaks a thousand words, holding the game with a disappointed scowl took far less words and said, “All I wanted for Christmas is anything other than this dumb game.” (For the record: It took Fotomat two weeks to develop your pictures back in the day. No such thing as “do-overs.” My parents didn’t know the grimace for at least two weeks, maybe not until July when the final picture on the roll of film was used. Anyone remember rolls of film and Fotomats in K-Mart parking lots? Anyone remember K-Mart? I digress. I’m old.).
Maybe this Christmas, you’re feeling a bit like Fred holding onto his Risk Game. “I don’t like my gift. I don’t want my picture taken. I’m not thrilled with the happenings.” Maybe you are like me reminiscing for the good old days.
What do you do when you don’t feel like having Christmas? You don’t want to celebrate. You don’t want to sing songs, rejoice, and be of good cheer?
What do you do when grief is still raw; the hurt is still deep; and the news is still bad? You don’t want to be a “Debby Downer.” You know others want to celebrate, and that’s ok for them. But you’d rather sit by a fire, sip some tea (or something else); and say, “This year, I’d rather let Christmas go by without much fanfare.”
If that’s you, join the club!
There are a lot of us worn out this year. The pandemic, loneliness, grief, political bickering, angst, worry, the economy, grumpy people… you name it— they’ve taken a toll. Police officers (pray for the two shot just down the road from the church this week); health care professionals; teachers; pastors (is it OK to lump my calling into the heap?) and plenty of others are living, working, and hanging on by a thread.
If anybody gets it, Jesus does. No matter what it has become, Christmas did not begin with merriment and ease. I know the angels announced the event, but the reality is Mary and Joseph had their baby in a barn. A germ infested, dirty barn. Within a short time, they became refugees in Egypt. Their lives were in danger. They were poor. Life wasn’t easy. Even as a man, Jesus didn’t have it easy. For all the fanfare of thousands fed, hundreds healed and great sermons preached, by the end he was dying all alone on a cross. In his time of great need, no one was there. All this to say, Jesus understands. Jesus knows your troubled or lonely heart. So when he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29); you can find rest in Him.
Maybe the best gift you can receive this year isn’t one that you’ll find under a tree, but simply going to Jesus and finding rest for your weary soul. Jesus invites us to come to Him. Do that today, and keep going to Him and until the day that you’ll be ready to sing carols once more.