Finding Hope at Christmas
In the northern hemisphere, Christmas falls near the shortest, and darkest, day of the year. Where I live, the darkness creeps in so early at Christmastime that it takes me by surprise nearly every year. This darkness stands in sharp stark contrast to the bright and shiny celebrations we see in the Christmas commercials and movies that run nearly 24/7 throughout the Advent season. It can be easy to be lured in by this “all sparkle, no gloom” picture of Christmas, but if we’re honest, we recognize that it doesn’t resonate with our own experience. For many of us, this Christmas season will be strained by busyness, relational strife, fiscal limitation, loneliness, or the pain of loss and grief.
It is not unusual for our hearts to feel a sense of gloominess and despair during these dark days of Advent. And we should feel no shame for this. We do not live in a world free from pain and struggle. And God does not promise us a path free from the realities of loss and grief. So, if you are struggling this Christmas, know that you are not alone. In fact, you are in good company. In the days before Jesus’ first Advent, the psalmist found himself in a pit of darkness and despair. We do not know the details of his pain or affliction, but we do know that he trusted God enough to cry out to him in his suffering and to expect that God would hear his prayer and respond.
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6).
That image of a watchman waiting for the morning has always struck me. A watchman is fully aware and attuned to the dangers of the night: the threat of invaders, wild animals, and thieves. The watchman has reason to be scared, anxious, and lonely as he waits out the night on guard and all alone. But in the midst of fear and despair, the watchman is also fully aware of something much more sure than any threat of the darkness: the knowledge that the light of morning will come.
During Advent, we remember what it was like in those days before Jesus came to save the world. And though today we still live in a world marred by sin and suffering, we can find hope in the knowledge that our Lord and his comfort is with us in our suffering (Matthew 5:4), that he understands our pain (Matthew 26:38), and that, ultimately, he has won victory over sin and death (John 16:33). This true Christmas hope is not a flimsy hope dependent on the sparkle (or lack thereof) in our current circumstances; instead, it is a hope grounded in the assurance of a Savior who came, dwelt among us, redeemed us from sin, and who will come again to make all things new.
Just like the sun rises every morning, we can be assured that even during the longest and darkest nights of the year—and in the midst of the most difficult of Christmas seasons—Immanuel, “God with us,” is near. This Christmas, may you find hope in the assurance that Jesus Christ’s “light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
The Today devotional has gathered a set of fourteen encouraging devotions to reassure you that even during a Blue Christmas, you’re not alone. Subscribe here to receive the free ebook and 14-day email series.