On Christmas Eve churches everywhere will be filled with happy people. The lights will be on, the poinsettias arranged, the sweaters will be bright, and the smiles will be wide. People will gather in the pews and sing the traditional carols, hear the Christmas story, and light candles. Millions on Christmas Eve night will rise and sing “Joy to the World.”
Many of those same people that will rise and sing on December 24 will go to bed on December 21 and face the longest night of the year in despair. There will be many that lie down wondering, “Where is the joy?” For people that are hurting, struggling, or mourning, the longest night of the year is so very long.
The bills have not been paid, the credit debt is mounting, and work is hard to come by. The night is so very long.
My mother died at this time of the year. Christmas won’t be the same. I miss her smile. I miss her words of wisdom. I miss her so much, and the night is so very long.
For the last 53 Christmases I have been with my husband. He held me in his arms as we watched the children, then the grandhcildren, open their presents. He made hot cocoa every Christmas morning. I do not even know the recipe, and the night is so very long.
The onesies I got for Christmas last year are put in a box in the attic. Never worn. Never held. I miss my child and I never held him in my arms, and the night is so very long.
The night can be so very long. The night can be so very dark and cold.
Some say that everything happens for a reason. God is in control, and has a plan. But what kind of God could plan such things? Is this the God that I am supposd to celebrate? Is this the God that I am supposed to worship? How can I sing “Joy to the World,” when there is none in my own heart?
Christmas does not mean everything is okay. Christmas did not end the sadness, the pain or the despair. For those that are hurting at Christmas, I hope you know that you are not alone. I do not offer you simple platitudes. I do not offer you easy answers. All I can offer you is my love.
I don’t think that everything happens for a reason. I think there are terrible things that happen everyday that God did not plan. I also think that God gives us the power and the grace to overcome even the worst that can happen. God gives us the chance to heal and be healed; to feed and be fed; to love and be loved.
The longest night can be so very long. Christmas does not end the night, but it gives us hope for the dawn.