It’s the Most Challenging Time of the Year

Christmas is my favorite holiday. The story of Jesus never gets old. There are so many perspectives to look through: Mary’s, Joseph’s, Jesus’, God’s, King Herod’s, the shepherds’, the Magi’s, etc. There are so many interesting yet little-known facts. There are so many traditions that have years and years of history.

Even people who have no religious connection to Christmas absolutely love this season. The gift-giving, the gift-receiving, the food, the friends, the family, the decorations, the parties, the stories, the memories.

Despite the commercial rush, people treat perfect strangers with cheer. For instance, a lady who had parked next to my car was unloading her groceries the same time I was and finished the same time I did. I offered to take her cart to the cart corral. She said in such a pleasant tone, “Oh, thank you so much! Merry Christmas!” I replied “Merry Christmas!” and we both looked like we were about to hug each other. There is just something in this time of year that warms the heart.

Yet, there is something about this time of year that hurts worse than any other time. Why do I want Christmas lights? Because I want to hide the darkness. Why do I want Christmas music playing 24/7? Because I want to hide the silence. Why do I want sparkly decorations everywhere? To hide the mundane. Why do I send Christmas cards to family and friends? To hide the loneliness.

Having clinical depression makes Christmas difficult for me. I normally feel fine throughout most of December as long as I stay busy. But Christmas Day is a whole different monster. The beautifully wrapped presents come out, the smell of the food wafts throughout the house, the relatives come over, the drinks are passed around. Everything is special, but I don’t feel special. I feel the same. And my sameness compared to everyone else’s joy makes me feel numb.

There are two emotions I don’t handle well: anger and numbness. Although I have healthy coping skills now, I didn’t always. I remember going off by myself almost every Christmas Day to cry, to hyperventilate, to hold my breath, to sneak a drink of some alcoholic beverage. I remember one Christmas in particular in which I said I was tired, went to my room, broke a picture frame, and used it on my arm because I needed to feel something – anything – and I needed to punish myself for not being happy like everyone else. Anger and numbness rage inside me on Christmas.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles on Christmas. This year alone, I know several people who will be spending this Christmas as their first since a death of a loved one, since the suicide of a loved one, since a divorce or a marital separation. Just yesterday, three people died who are associated with my church, and a fourth who could pass at any time. There is so much hurt and pain in life, and it always seems to be amplified by “the most wonderful time of the year.”

As I mentioned before, I do have healthy coping skills now.

  • I try to find why I feel a certain way, but don’t require a logical explanation.
  • I don’t punish myself for feeling an emotion I don’t want to feel. I feel it, acknowledge it, and let it pass.
  • I remember that there is one person who truly hates Christmas: Satan.
  • I remember that there is Someone who defeated Satan: Jesus.

If there is anyone who wants us to hate Christmas, it’s Satan. When I stop to think about it, I can’t imagine a holiday he must hate more, except perhaps Easter. I think Satan battles Easter by making it feel unimportant to most people. I think he battles Christmas by making it feel depressing to people. I mean, our Savior was born that first Christmas with one goal: to save people from eternal death with Satan. Why wouldn’t Satan pull out every weapon he has to make us hate Christmas – especially those of us who are either strong in the Christian faith or who are on the fence and could easily tip into Satan’s palm?

I have one thing to say to Satan, and that is exactly what Martin Luther said to him: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is, there I shall be also!”

I have many, countless things to say and pray to my Savior concerning His birthday. There is a song by Relient K called “I Celebrate the Day,” that has lyrics I love to pray every Christmas. I pray it by singing it, and I pray it through tears when my throat is too choked by sobs to sing. This song only begins to convey how I feel about how Jesus willingly left heaven to live in this painful world and to die for me, and all the overwhelming wonder and gratitude and reverence that result in such a selfless act. This song helps me remember that all the terrible things that happen throughout the year – the things that seem to be amplified on Christmas – are only temporal things. Satan lost. I celebrate the day he lost. I celebrate the day Christ was born. I celebrate the day Christ won. I celebrate through the pain because one day there will never be pain again for all those who call on Jesus’ Name.

“The first time
That You opened Your eyes
Did You realize
That You would be my Savior?
And the first breath
That left Your lips
Did You know that it
Would change this world forever?
And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I might one day
Pray for You to save my life.”

Merry Christmas everyone.

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