Hebrews 4:15–16 (ESV)
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
We have all heard of a “White Christmas,” made popular by the Irving Berlin musical. But have you heard of a “blue Christmas?” The phrase, I think, was made famous by the Elvis Presley song about a love he will dearly miss at Christmas time. A blue Christmas is a Christmas that falls short of what people hope or expect Christmas to be. Instead of joy it is marked by sadness or loneliness or depression. There can be all sorts of reasons for this – a death, a divorce, loss of a job, being far from family, an illness, financial troubles, conflict and so forth. Some of us have such high expectations of this season, that it’s bound to disappoint. Nostalgia so idealizes our childhood memories of Christmas that the reality can never live up to the ideal. Many look for Christmas with all its parties and decorations and gifts to be an escape from life’s troubles. Instead those troubles don’t go away. In fact, they are amplified by the season. If you are struggling with finances, how disappointing is it when you can’t afford to buy all the presents you are supposed to buy for your children? I know people who lost a loved one at Christmas time, who simply couldn’t bring themselves to go to church at Christmas. For many a “blue Christmas” is a disappointing Christmas, a failed Christmas.
I wonder, however, if there is a different way to approach a “blue Christmas.” Could a “blue Christmas” in God’s hands be the best Christmas ever… a Christmas through which God brings healing and hope to whatever pain you are experiencing?
That healing, I believe, begins with seeing Christmas for what it really is. God didn’t send His Son so that once a year we could escape, and pretend life’s troubles aren’t really. He sent His Son because those struggles and problems are real. Jesus came to stand in our place, to face and conquer those problems for us. “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Our Lord understands what we are feeling and struggling with. When you stop and think about it, there were many aspects of that first Christmas and of His life that were very “blue.” I am sure no one believed Mary’s story that she was pregnant with God’s Son. Joseph was ready to divorce her. When they came to Bethlehem, ready to have the baby “there was no place for them in the Inn.” Her first child’s first crib was a manger for feeding livestock. The King tried to have her child killed and they had to flee to a foreign land. In life, Jesus had no place to lay his head… no home of His own. He was rejected by the religious leaders. He wept at a friend’s tomb. His own home town wanted nothing to do with Him. One of His closest friends betrayed Him. He was convicted on the basis of lies, whipped beaten, crowned with thorns and crucified. Talk about a “blue Christmas!” That’s good news for us in our blue Christmas. He understands exactly what we are experiencing. Jesus is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses for He was tempted in every way as we are…”
There is no need to deny the struggles we may have at this time of the year. To paraphrase a passage of Scripture – “If we pretend we have no struggles, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but If we admit them to Him, He is faithful and just and will bring forgiveness or hope or comfort or healing – whatever it is we need.” Indeed, the Lord whose birth we celebrate came to conquer our struggles by His life, death and resurrection. He invites us to bring our “blue Christmas” to Him. “Come unto me,” Jesus says, “all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
Don’t run from your blue Christmas. It’s real… no use in denying it. But also, don’t live that Christmas alone. All of us experience it. Let’s walk it together, holding each other up, as we approach God’s throne of grace “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” That’s what Christmas is really about – not running from life but facing it with God who loved you so much that He took on flesh and blood, and became a part of this life, that you might have life. That’s the true joy of Christmas – blue or white.