Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” followed the tradition of casting holiday-dreaders as Scrooge-like, sour-souled sad sacks who became downers and “buzz-kills” for every Cindy Lou and Tiny Tim with eager and innocent holiday aspirations.
But a quiet group of holiday-dreaders dwells quietly behind the scenes. You may be one of them. You try not to be noticed, but you wince as Thanksgiving and Christmas draw near. Your heart is not two sizes too small; your heart is broken.
When the time for family and mirth and joy-to-the-world draws near, you brace yourself for an onslaught of tears, anxiety, and anguish of the soul. For you, the holidays bring the grim reminder that someone loved and precious is missing. Everyone’s gain of gifts and lights and feasts seems to highlight your loss. The hand you once held is now gone. The hopes you carried in your heart have disappeared. Your ability to be casually delighted in carefree moments has been taken captive by oppressive and ever-present heartbreak
But, hear this, dear holiday-dreader: the surprising reality and well-kept secret is that the holidays are more for you than anyone else.
The word “holiday” is derived from the sacred expression: holy day. It is a day set apart. It is a sacred time. It is a time when God meets you where you’re at—not to see how much fun you’re capable of having, but to bring His grace, strength and consolation to life as it really is. The holidays celebrate the presence of God—closer to you than you can imagine. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
As we take a serious look at this struggle called “life,” we learn that our deepest need is for God to draw near. Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 when He declared the answer to this yearning of the soul: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1 ESV).
This is what happened at Christmas. This is why we express gratitude during Thanksgiving. God has heard our cries and He has come down to save us (Exodus 3:7-8).
I know what it’s like to sit in the darkness, to try to catch your breath of grief and loss, and to feel the tears well up while people laugh with friends and join in the chorus of “Fa-la-la-la-la.” But it is into those dark and lonely places that God whispers His soul embracing promises and lets you know that the Word, His Son Jesus, became present for you. His outstretched arm of salvation reaches you and holds you fast. The Reason for the season allows you to step into the holidays with a sweet comfort in the midst of sour circumstances. Peel back the holiday hubbub and you’ll see Jesus. He gives you a deeper delight of what the holiness of the season is really all about.
If you’re dreading the holidays, take heart. These days are meant to wrap you in hope. The Gift you need is closer than ever.