Several years ago I heard a sermon titled “Christmas in Hell.” The sermon conveyed the point that while the holidays are “supposed” to be cheery and happy and filled with beautiful dining tables, fireplaces, sweaters and fully intact highly functional families; for many people the holidays bring up all sorts of painful and depressing feelings and experiences where, honestly, December 26 cannot come faster.
Can anyone relate to this experience? There is an early tradition in the Christian church explored by Justin Martyr in the 2nd century and Origen in the 4th considering that Jesus was very possibly born in a cave, and not a well-crafted stable with animals, shepherds, and wisemen in perfect symmetry.
Whether this is true or provable is not the point, but the point is the spiritual power behind this tradition. Divine love was made flesh in a vulnerable baby and enters into the vulnerable caves of our lives; the dark, damp, scary caves, and brings light and guidance right where we are, and not where we think we should be.
If you feel lonely, sad, scared, heart-broken, grieved, depressed, less than ideal, imperfect, if the fireplace is not lit for you and the mantle is not well-manicured, then be of good cheer, Christmas is for you.
Perhaps being all put together is an illusion anyways. May a bit of extra kindness to self and others abound in a time when it is sorely needed right now.
Jon Dephouse is the Senior Associate for Education and Formation at All Saints Church, Pasadena.