The Christmas season is hard. I know I’m really not supposed to admit that. I am supposed to hide behind the smiles, the upbeat Christmas songs playing on the radio, the lights shining brightly on all the houses, the colorful and joyful ornaments on the tree, the gatherings with family and friends sharing good food and gifts.
Despite all of that, I can’t help but have a sense of dread about this season.
Dread during the holidays
Maybe some of the dread comes from the job I have. As a pastor, I have seen the hurt and pain so many carry with them through Christmas. I have seen how alone so many people are.
Some of the dread comes from my own personal loss. After my mom passed away, Christmas has never been the same. Home really is not home anymore. I grew up with the house filled with the smells of her cooking and the sound of her laughter, and now, the absence of these things makes Christmas hard.
Since having kids of my own, there is great joy in seeing the wonder in their eyes and the excitement they have, but in many ways, not having loved ones here with us to see their wonder and excitement makes it even harder.
Maybe you struggle with the holidays, too. Maybe you have a hard time being merry and bright. You are not alone.
Jesus is the light
In the beautiful prologue of John’s Gospel where he shows us the eternal nature of the Word and the power of the incarnation, John calls Jesus “the light of all mankind.”
John wrote, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9). About this light, this Jesus, John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
This is the ultimate hope we celebrate in this season. It is the hope we patiently wait for through the season of Advent and celebrate joyously at Christmas.
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Jesus is the light of the world. He shines the light of his love in the darkness of our grief, our suffering and the difficulty we experience in this season.
The darkness will not overcome this light. It will shine and is shining, if we have eyes to see.
Look for the light
Where is the light of Jesus shining around you?
For you, maybe it is in the beautiful decorations and many events of the season. Maybe it simply is in the smiles of your children, the hugs of loved ones or a good conversation with a friend.
Too often, we look for a spotlight when a flashlight is all we need.
Jesus shows his love to us most in the ordinary moments and relationships of our everyday lives. He will shine the light of his love somewhere in your life today. Hold on to that hope.
Be the light
Where can you be the light of the love of Jesus during this season that is so hard for so many?
Who can you call, text or visit just to let them know you love them and are there for them? You may know someone who has lost a loved one recently. Pray for that person. Invite him or her over. You don’t have to have the exact words. You just have to show up and let people know they are not alone.
This time of year is a perfect opportunity for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in real and tangible ways.
If Christmas is hard for you, you are not alone. In the darkness, look for the light. The darkness you are in has not overcome the light of the love of Jesus.
If Christmas is your favorite time of year, a time you can’t wait to come around, be the light of the love of Jesus for someone around you. Speak a kind word, send a nice note or invite someone over for dinner. You don’t have to get people in the Christmas spirit; you just have to love them where they are.
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
Let’s look for the light, and let’s let the light shine through us.
Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, Texas. The views expressed here are solely those of the author.