The holiday season is full of expectations. This year, it’s hard to escape the Amazon commercials that fill TV airwaves with singing boxes. “Can you feel it? The whole world’s coming together!” Ads selling everything from cars to clothes show happy families bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning to rip open packages full of joy. Of course, we should know that stuff doesn’t make you happy, but the expectation of happiness swirls around Christmas like those little particles in a snow globe.
Every year at Christmastime, I try to think about the others, the people not pictured in the Mercedes-Benz ad. The grieving son or daughter who has lost a parent. The broken heart of someone who’s relationship just ended. The stress and pain of being estranged from family. The weary soul fighting critical or chronic illness from a bed in a hospital or nursing home. And of course, the many people who just aren’t financially able to put those gift-wrapped boxes under the tree. I have a whole playlist of songs that I go to for that reminder.
- Pretty Paper
- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
- Everything’s Changed at Christmas but You
- What Child Is This Anyway?
- Christmas Lights
- O Come, Emmanuel
- Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis (My all-time favorite Christmas song.)
Myself? I’m happy this Christmas. I’m blessed with a great family, wonderful friends, and good health. But I know that as the years go by, that may not always be the case, and I know it certainly isn’t the case for many. I’m glad that the music makers of the world recognize that sad and simple truth. One of Bob Dylan’s best songs is an ode to weariness, recorded in January of 1997. “Not Dark Yet” is pure poetry about a soul at the end of their rope.
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
In this season of long nights, let us not forget the story actually told by the Gospels. When Jesus made his entrance, it was into a broken world, and it was for those weary souls. Prostitutes, lepers, blind men, thieves…all manner of disillusioned and downtrodden people. He never promised happiness, shiny gift-wrapping, a new car, or even comfort. Hope doesn’t come with all of those trappings, especially if you can’t even hear the murmur of a prayer.
Don’t believe the advertisements. You don’t have to be happy this Christmas. Whatever you’re going through, know that you are loved, and that you don’t have to go through it alone. And if it’s getting darker, let someone know. We’ll bring a torch.