For some, the Christmas season only brings heightened sadness and depression. The laughter and companionship that go on around us can make loneliness, isolation, or grief worse instead of better. At these times, God can feel far away. It can seem that he doesn’t care about our suffering. As everyone around us delights in celebrating Christ’s birth, Jesus might be the last person you want to think about, let alone celebrate.
The comforting truth is that Jesus understands and he meets us where we are, in our loneliness and in our suffering, and allows us to lament and to grieve.
Jesus Knows Loneliness
The night of Jesus’ birth was not a festive night. There were no parties celebrating joy and peace with friends and family. No Christmas tree, carol singing, and a table full of delicious food. Instead, in a dirty shed full of stinky animals, alone in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph spent the night because there was no place for them anywhere else. It was there in that strange place that the Son of God entered the world a human being.
He came into this world, with all its sufferings, loneliness, and tragedy. Christmas is a season for meditating upon this great and comforting truth: that the Son of God came down and took on flesh, took on the sufferings of this fractured and estranged world, to draw near to us.
Jesus was born into strife and his beginnings marked the rest of his life. Shortly after his birth, Herod tried to have him killed (Lk. 2:16-19). Like Job, Jesus wrestled with the suffering he came to endure. He prayed that God would take away the pain (Lk. 22:39-46). But if he had not gone through the suffering, had not experienced his disciples’ abandonment, born his family’s skepticism, or grieved at the death of Lazarus, he could not be a sympathetic high priest, able to understand what life in this world is like.
Jesus Came to End All Grief
Because of his incarnation, Jesus meets us where we are. He sits with us because he understands our sufferings, having suffered all things himself. Jesus knows our wrestling and our struggles. And because he has suffered, because he knows loneliness and grief and despair and isolation, we can come to him for comfort. Kelly M. Kapic in his book Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering writes,
…but in our honest cries of our lament and grief we may, like Job, hear something beyond the answer to our questions. We might hear and know the presence of the God who not only is here but who has borne for us the weight of all that is broken, who absorbed not only our sin but also the chaos of disease and death in all its forms. It is in our cries that we can learn that this God comes…He comes silently, quietly, humbly. But he comes. (68-69)
We do not need to hide our grief from God this Christmas because in Jesus Christ, God bears our grief with us. The birth of Christ is not good news just for the happy and comfortable but is good news especially for the downcast and the oppressed. All those who intimately know the brokenness of this world and of themselves. This Jesus is the one to cling to who understands and brings us hope.
While the joy of the holiday season might not be yours, the eternal joy of everlasting life with God in his heavenly kingdom is yours. This joy is not a mere feeling, it is not the result of “just believing” harder but is the truth that our Savior says to us, “come near to me and I will give you comfort and rest.” Jesus draws us into his story and unites himself to us so that his story becomes our own defining narrative. Joined with him in his lowliness, we also join with him in his exaltedness.
Even though our friends and family may expect us to be cheerful this holiday season, know that Jesus Christ doesn’t want our fake smiles or trumped-up joyfulness. Rather, he wants us to come to him in our aloneness, in our grief, in our suffering and pour it out before him because when Jesus was born, he too was born into a world of grief and pain. And he came to heal it.
Jesus Doesn't Leave Us Alone
Jesus provides us with fellow believers who are our companions through this life pilgrimage. This is why the author to the Hebrews says "do not neglect to meet with one another" (Heb. 10:25). It can be hard to reach out when you feel lonely and down, but telling someone of your struggles is one of the best ways to relieve your pain. Often, people are happy to welcome you into their homes for the holidays when they find out you are having a hard time. Most people appreciate being told directly what you need. Remember, this is why God gave us other people by knitting all Christians together by the Holy Spirit to be one body with one Lord and one faith. This unity is one of the many blessings Jesus gives us while we await his second coming.
So, this Christmas season, don’t hide your tears but bring them before God and to others and cling to the hope you have in Jesus.
Episode 133 | Dr. Michael Horton and Adriel Sanchez answer questions on sharing the gospel, spiritual sacrifices, and the image of God.