Did you have a good Christmas? – it’s always the question people ask when you go back to work after the festive break and in my experience most people say ‘good, thank you’, it seem almost churlish to say otherwise. Even more for us Christians – we have something to celebrate, right? But in reality not everyone feels happy and joyful at Christmas.
A Christmas release ten years ago by the Hurts Duo entitled ‘All I want for Christmas is New Years Day’ has lyrics like
It’s only seven days till Christmas
Six more till new year’s day.
It’s not a good time to feel this way.
The official video on YouTube is set in a graveyard with a funeral taking place. It’s not surprising it was not a big Christmas hit when first released in 2010 but it does remind us that Christmas is not always a magical time for everyone!
So here is a surprisingly relevant scripture for Christmas and the New Year.
‘Each heart knows its own bitterness
and no on else can share it’s joy
(Proverbs 14 verse 10)
The proverb is saying that there is a sense in which no matter how well we think we know someone, there are secrets deep within the person that only they know – perhaps profound sadness they cannot really share or intense joy that no one else really participates in.
So what do we do when we feel we should be happy (after all it’s Christmas), but have pain or a sense of loss inside that we can’t share with others? Christmas is a time when we are ‘supposed’ to be happy – But what if we don’t feel that way? We can add guilt to our pain, thinking ‘If I really loved God, it should not hurt so bad, there must be something wrong with me’.
In response to this there is a kind of Christian stoicism that says ‘Buck up, things will be okay in the end’. But the Bible does not tell us this, and we do not even see this in Jesus, the perfect man. Think of him in the garden of Gethsemane. Hear him say ‘Abba, Father everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’. Jesus does not just give himself a little pep talk, he cries out in anguish on the cross ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?’. Christ himself felt profound loss and expressed profound suffering to his Father and he cried out to his Father. This was not lack of faith, it WAS faith.
There may be much of my struggle that no-one really understands but as I cry out to my Father in heaven I can know that he knows, he cares and he is with me. I may struggle but I will persevere, I may have inner battles but I will continually cry to God. As we read in Romans 8 ‘the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba”, Father.’
It’s great to have friends who know us and care and who we can turn to when we need to. It is great to have the body of Christ as a support when we need it. But perhaps there are inner struggles and hurts that only our Father understands because only he fully knows us. David rejoices in Psalm 139 that “you have searched me, Lord, and you know me.”
And we have Jesus our older brother and great high priest who has been through it all, suffering ultimate pain and loss on the cross and can sympathise with us in our weaknesses and understand our troubles.