This reflection was written for the ‘Blue Christmas’ area at our Cosy Christmas event last week … We thought it was important to share these poignant words more widely:
Christmas sounds like a joyous time, doesn’t it? Children laugh, Santa brings gifts, and families celebrate a merry happily ever after. One of my favourite childhood memories is opening one gift the night before—usually pajamas. I spent Christmas cuddled in cosy warmth. Christmas might be unequivocally joyful for some people sometimes. Maybe they are surrounded by healthy, happy family members who have enough money, resources, and social support to live without worry.
But what about the rest of us?
I still treasure the positive memories, but Christmas looks different after coming out, being disowned by family, and moving to a new country. What used to bring joy brings grief and wistfulness for what will never come again. It’s easy to feel as if Christmas doesn’t belong to us, especially if our life circumstances are difficult.
What complications do you bring to the season this year?
When we peel back the sparkling gold-and-silver tinsel of Christmas, we see a terrified refugee family who lost their family, community, culture, and country. It’s difficult to imagine any situation in which the unmarried Mary’s pregnancy was greeted with joy and support from the community around her. When Mary and Joseph fled to Bethlehem, they had no rich relations or friends to host them, and one door after another closed in their faces. Even though they were visited by worshipping kings, the birth of their child triggered Herod’s mass slaughter of baby boys. Rachel wept for her children and would not be consoled, for they were no more.
Christmas sounds great until you look past the hallowed nativity scene that never quite depicts the muck, filth, and stench—not to mention overwhelming danger and difficulty.
Even the most steadfast of believers would have worried in this grim time. We often get so caught up in the glitter of Christmas that we forget the raw, naked anguish and fear that Mary and Joseph must have felt.
Christmas is not an exclusive holiday limited to those with a happy life. Nor is it a standard to use against ourselves, seeing only our flaws, shortcomings, and difficulties.
Christmas is visiting hospice to hold the hand of an elderly woman—let’s call her Pearl—who is estranged from her family. Poverty-stricken and without a single human friend or visitor. It’s sitting next to Pearl on Christmas morning, singing softly to her as she fights for each breath. It’s listening to her chest rattle as she struggles to find peace amidst incessant pain.
It’s folding hands together and saying a prayer for peace. When that peace finally arrives, it’s taking a moment to sit quietly in the presence of love greater than we can imagine. A love that couldn’t care less about worldly, external standards—and instead loves us just as we are.
Whatever you are going through
Whoever you are
Wherever your journey has taken you this year—
Christmas is for you.
You are included, welcome, and cherished—exactly as you are.
You don’t need a smile on your face or a song on your lips.
You only need to come.
You who are faithful, come.
And allow the family of Christ to surround you with love.
You belong here today.
Beloved child of God—
You are worthy of love.
© Ana 2019