When Christmas Comes with Sorrow

Tonight will be the longest night of the year (meteorologically in the northern hemisphere).  And for some, these nights close to Christmas are long for more personal reasons.  As the holidays approach all the world fills with carols and lights and joy.  Yet when we wrestle with disease or infirmity, we may not fee like singing.  When we have lost loved ones, the lights can blur behind tears.  When depression weighs us down, joy seems like an emotion for other people.

If the Christmas season is more blue than bright for you, know that you are not alone.  And you are not out of step.  The child born in the manager came to comfort the afflicted, heal the broken, and to conquer every darkness, even death.  In 1930, as shadow gathered in his native Germany, the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was visiting Cuba.  While preaching to a German-speaking congregation he said this:

We all come with different personal feelings to Christmas festival. One comes with pure joy as he looks forward to this day of rejoicing, of friendships renewed, and of love…

Others look for a moment of peace under the Christmas tree, peace from the pressures of daily work…

Others again approach Christmas with great apprehension. It will be no festival of joy for them. Personal sorrow is especially painful especially on this day for those whose loneliness is deepened at Christmastime…

And despite it all, Christmas comes. Whether we wish it or not, whether we are sure or not, we must hear the words once again: Christ the Savior is here!

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Havana, Cuba, December 21, 1930

The solstice’s proximity to Christmas ought to remind us that Christ did not come into the best of times and circumstances, but at a difficult time and to the people who needed Him most.  Like St. Augustine, I pray the Lord would keep watch over all who wake or watch or weep in this longest night.  That the saints and angels would tend the sick, rest the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering and stand with the afflicted.  That joy would be a shied for all who celebrate and that all of this would be so for the sake of the Love that is soon to be born.

May God rest ye merry this Christmas.

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