For many the festive season is marred with pain, separation and loss. Writer Amy Boucher Pye encourages those experiencing a ‘blue Christmas’ to embrace lament and wishes them a ‘Happy Christmas anyway’.
I look across the table at my new husband as he valiantly tries to eat my first attempt at homemade chicken noodle soup. It’s Christmas Eve, and I’ve utterly failed to make the (to me) traditional feast – the gloopy noodles with watery stock are nearly inedible. Looking for some comfort, I call my family across the Atlantic in Minnesota, but hearing their loving voices touches off even more sadness within me. As I express my regret of not being with them at Christmas, my dad says: ‘Amy, you longed to marry and now you have. It’s right that you’re there with Nicholas.’ He’s wise and gentle, even if at that moment I struggle to listen.
That first Christmas in Surrey is the closest that I’ve experienced to having a ‘blue Christmas’. I’m aware, however, that the pain and heartache of others may be far more intense. For instance, your table might never again include that special someone sitting at it. Living in a world marred by sin, disease and death, we’ll all have some kind of reckoning with a blue Christmas at some point.
Some churches host a ‘longest night’ service (calling it that instead of ‘blue Christmas’ to get away from the associations with the Elvis Presley song), where people can celebrate Christmas without any forced jollity. Instead of having to bury their feelings of pain and anguish, they can express them to God through the reflective singing and prayers. Attending such a service doesn’t require a tragedy either; it can be an oasis of calm amid a too-busy time of parties, baking and gift exchanges.
If you’re feeling low and broken this year, I pray you’ll find comfort and hope in the God who comes to brush away the tears from your eyes.
God welcomes the cries of lament from his people; indeed, Jesus wept angry tears at the tomb of Lazarus. The season of Advent can actually help us to lament, because it reminds us to wait for the second coming of Christ, when God will come and relieve us of our pain: ‘”He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Revelation 21:4). Celebrating Christmas through tears – ‘happy Christmas anyway’ – can mean acknowledging that we hold the answer to our lament through the gift of Christ. Even as we wait for his coming again.
If you’re feeling low and broken this year, I pray you’ll find comfort and hope in the God who comes to brush away the tears from your eyes. As you release your pain to him, may you experience a deep sense of love, peace and even joy.
Loving Lord, how you must grieve at the horrors that we encounter, whether through natural disaster, human-made conflict or our own errant behaviour. Deal with us ever so mercifully. Bind up our wounds and give us the strength to worship as you renew our stores of hope. Amen
This article is adapted from Celebrating Christmas: Embracing Joy through Art and Reflections by Amy Boucher Pye and Leo Boucher. Shared with permission.