Christmas can be a bittersweet time.
Amid the merrymaking and twinkly lights, beneath the festive music and the media exhortations to make this a perfect family Christmas, for many people (myself included) this can be the hardest time of year. Where there is loss, loneliness, brokenness and bereavement, this time of year can dramatically heighten the pain. And where there is illness, homelessness, and a constant struggle to live, it can be hard to summon up any kind of Christmas spirit.
I'm heartened that Jesus didn't come to a perfect, happy place. He came instead to a troubled place; born in poverty, effectively homeless, amongst a people living under oppression, and with his parents forced to become refugees shortly after his birth. No easy start for him. No silver spoon. This was his choice. He came right into the heart of a messy, fractured world. He understands that life's not perfect; that life can be gut-wrenchingly hard.
And that gives me hope.
At a time when we celebrate the mystery, miracle and wonder of God-made-small, there can be huge undercurrents of sadness for some. And this has nothing to do with Jesus. Rather, it has everything to do with familial and cultural expectations that this season should somehow be a perfect, happy and harmonious time. And of course, life's not always like that. Which makes it tough for those for whom 'happiness' feels distinctly elusive right now.
As we move through these coming days, many whom we meet will be shouldering deep, hidden pain behind their smiles. Some will be secretly at breaking point. So let's be kind, as Jesus was. He was always, and everywhere, compassionate. Let's celebrate His birth by spreading kindness and love, by being patient and gentle with everyone. These gifts cost nothing and might be a greater gift to them than we will ever know.
And if this post speaks directly into your own situation, allow yourself to be gentle with yourself, whatever that means for you.
This post comes with my deepest love to all my readers.
May we all have a Compassionate Christmas.