Sad. Lonely. Afraid. Angry
I don’t like Christmas very much.
I was riding in the car last night with my wife Brenda and my two youngest boys. We were actually on our way home from doing a surprise “drop in” at the ice cream shop where my high school senior works a few evenings a week.
On the way home, Brenda saw a sign that said, “Christmas lights at the end of the street.” Unable to resist the invitation, she drove us to the back of a dead end where we saw a house lit up with so many Christmas lights, I promise you astronauts on the international space station could likely see it as they orbited overhead.
Brenda was obviously delighted by the Christmas light carolers, the light display of a Santa Clause bowing down to a baby Jesus in a manger, snow skiers making their way down the hill in the yard (where there was no snow!), and my boys in the back were loving it almost as much as she was.
I felt trapped in the car and just wanted to go home. It was worse that Brenda was driving, so I was not in control and had to endure it all with my foot tapping against the floor mat of the passenger side of the car as Brenda drove SO SLOWLY down the street – oohing and ahhhing . . . “Those ice skaters holding hands are my favorite!”
Brenda saw I was fidgety so she asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know so I made something up. My chest felt tight and I wanted out of the car. I did not care much for the lights and I was somehow irritated by Brenda’s enjoyment of the whole thing.
This morning I remembered something Brenda said to me a couple years ago (after about our 25th year of marriage), “Jeff, you’re not much fun at Christmas.”
She’s right and I’m not. I never understood this until my heart began to soften a few years ago going through Chip Dodd’s Voice of the Heart. The way our brains are constructed, our memories are stored in the same place where we feel our feelings. As a result, the more you begin to feel, the more you will remember. The more you remember, the more you will feel about what you remember as you awaken to the feelings you attempted to stuff into the background by “forgetting” or “explaining away” the events of your life.
In August of 1965, my dad informed my mom that he was leaving her to marry a woman he had been having an affair with. I was just shy of 3 years old, my little sister Judy had just been born, and there were six of us kids under the age of 14. My mom asked my dad to wait until after Christmas. He honored her request to the letter. On the evening of Christmas day that year, I remember seeing my dad walk out the door and out of my life.
Yeah, I’ve never been much fun at Christmas. There is a low-grade fever that comes over me this time of year that gifts, games, and gatherings can distract me from – but not heal.
Nothing from the OUTSIDE of me can change what is true INSIDE of me.
I am thankful this Christmas that Jesus Christ became a man to die on a cross for my sins and to come live INSIDE of me – to change me from the INSIDE out with the relentless power and pursuit of His gracious love. He is not an external distraction from my sadness and loneliness and hurt. He is one who felt all those things as a man and who is WITH me in the truest sense.
Merry Christmas. Immanuel literally means “God WITH us.”