I just came home from a very special gathering. The church, where Allan and I have been visiting- First United Methodist Church in Westborough- held a Blue Christmas service this afternoon. I have heard about these services, but I have never had the opportunity to experience one. The service is a healing service, designed to allow those who are experiencing feelings of grief and loss at Christmastime, to have a safe, loving and accepting environment where those feelings can be expressed. I was invited to share a short message during the service. The people there welcomed me with incredible grace and kindness. It was such a blessing to be among them. These are the words that God put on my heart to share with them today……
“I have struggled with Christmas since I was a kid. Everyone is supposed to be super happy and excited at this time of year; God forbid we are sad, or have problems. My family had a lot of problems when I was a kid but nobody was supposed to know about them. We decorated and wrapped and made everything look shiny and new on the outside while inside we were lost and lonely and sad and scared. I always identified with Charlie Brown. He could not take part in Christmas, the way that others around him celebrated. He knew something was wrong. He knew that many people did not get it. I loved watching him as his righteous indignation boils over and he finally just can’t take it anymore…..”Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is really about??!!!!!!!”, he screams, stamping his foot and clenching his fist. As a kid, I often wanted to scream the same thing.
There are always hurts and disappointments in this broken world…..and it is especially difficult to cope with that pain at Christmastime. My grief over being childless- something that usually is bearable during the rest of the year- always rears its ugly head during the holidays. I look at the smiling, excited children all around me, preparing to celebrate Christmas with their families- and then I look at my own childless home- and my heart just breaks. The pain over my lost pregnancies, something that I think has been healed years ago…..becomes a freshly opened wound.
Having a loved one suffering from a horrible disease is another obstacle to a celebratory Christmas. Watching my Mother’s Alzheimer’s continue its evil, twisted progression tears me apart every day…..but especially at Christmas. I try to visit her and console her in the nursing home as she struggles with anxiety, confusion, grief and fear. I am not effective at consolation. She drifts further and further away from me. She cannot be reached. It is not supposed to be like this. It was never supposed to be like this.
I sit in front of my beautiful Christmas tree thinking….it is not supposed to be like this. Families are not supposed to be estranged. People are not supposed to be addicted. Parents are not supposed to mourn their children. People are not supposed to be homeless and hungry. There is so much pain and loss and grief in this world. And just when I think I am not going to make it through another Christmas season, I hear the sweet voice of Linus reciting the Scripture in my head…..
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men……………..
-That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown”…………
The words of Linus, which are the very words of God, comfort me. That is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown. That is what Christmas is all about Christine. That is what Christmas is all about brothers and sisters…..It is about the Light of God, shining in the darkness. Shining in the midst of commercialism. Shining in the midst of family brokenness. Shining in the midst of loneliness and sickness and fear and hurt and trauma. God became a person and dwelt among us. To rescue us. To save us. To lead us home. It isn’t supposed to be like this- that’s just the thing. Charlie Brown knew it. I know it. Many other sensitive, wounded people like us know it too. But just wait……The Good News is, this world is not our home. A Light shines in the darkness; a Light that will eventually lead us home. If we can just keep hoping and believing in that Light, if we can just keep hanging on to that Old Rugged Cross – even if it is by our fingernails….we can become a part of it too.”