When Christmas is painful

John on Corran Ferry

My thoughts this afternoon are with those for whom Christmas is a difficult times, for whatever reason. I think of folk mourning those who travelled through past Christmases with them; of those who will not see their young children on Christmas Day; of those who feel sad and lonely while part of a merry crowd, and of those who feel desperately alone; of those who are hungry and cold; of those who have no shelter; of those who are in hospital; of those in New Craigs; of those in care homes; of those who are full of regrets for their past mistakes.

The message of Christmas is that God is with us in Jesus, who knows the pain of those who are lonely, hurting, confused. And I pray that each hurting heart will encounter something of the love and healing of God.

I remember once, when I was about 35, spending Christmas Day with my parents and trying to communicate with them about things in the past which I felt needed acknowledged and discussed, and with the reticence of their generation they were not open to this. In despair I left their house on Boxing Day morning and drove home. Somehow I found myself at the front door of some friends. I guess a sad visitor is not quite what you expect when you are still in your PJs at 9.30am on 26th December.

But d’you know what? They welcomed me in. I burst into tears. ‘It’s all right,’ I said to their children. ‘Big people cry too.’ And I spend the whole day with Alistair and Louise and the kids, playing with Scalextric, eating turkey sandwiches, trying to clean the world’s dirtiest ever cooker, and going to B&Q for paint. And their love and healing sustained me.

God was present to me, in them. And though God encourages and heals through the Spirit, God can only encounter people physically through us. And so, may we resolve this Christmas, to think of others who may be hurting, and do some small thing to ensure them that God is with them in their pain. It doesn’t need to be a big project; we are not responsible for fixing one another’s problems; what we are responsible for is being the love of God to those we meet, however casually.

And perhaps those among us who are hurting will be able to be ‘wounded healers’ bringing comfort to others despite their own pain, and in so doing sense Christ’s healing hands upon our stricken hearts.

We say ‘Happy Christmas!’ not because this season is an opting out of the pain and intractable problems facing us, but because Jesus is with humanity in the very heart of our dark winter. The days are growing longer. Spring will come!

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