To those who are hurting this holiday
If you are hurting this Christmas, I’m sorry.
I am sorry for all the merriment around you that doesn’t pause for a moment to ask you how you’re doing. I am sorry for all the holiday cards you’ll get with photoshopped snapshots of beautiful, happy families. I’m sorry for the song you’ll hear 47 times on the radio today, proclaiming this month as the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
I don’t know your pain and I’m not pretending to. Maybe you’ve been laid off recently, or you’re in a divorce, or you’ve had to say goodbye to a loved one. Or you’re dealing with hurt from the past, or maybe your family is shattered. Perhaps you don’t even know why you’re hurting but you have this unexplainable darkness over you and no matter what you do, it doesn’t go away.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Christmas, and so the sadness you might experience some other time of year is amplified because there’s all this pressure to Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and to be Merry and Bright.
I’ve had a few sucky Christmasses myself, and I’m not here to present some end-all solution for you. But those years I have been broken and hurting I find a little solace in what I call Simple Christmas.
In Simple Christmas, you don’t have to conjure up magical feelings when you see a house decked out in white lights. You don’t have to watch “Love Actually” or “Elf” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” even if you watch them every year. No need for baking sugar cookies or forcing jolly music down your ear canals.
All Simple Christmas requires of you is to reflect on Jesus, a swaddled baby born in a manger to poor, unwed parents. He came to be with you in the midst of your brokeness and pain, and he’s here with you this year, when everyone else seems too merry to care.
Judy Garland sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the 1944 musical, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” The climax of the song, delivered with so much heart-wrenching emotion, goes like this:
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now
The song became an instant hit in the era where our sons, husbands, fathers and brothers were fighting in World War II, and Garland’s live performances brought soldiers and their families to tears.
Fast forward 15 years, and Frank Sinatra swapped the line until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow to hang a shining star upon the highest bough in order to “jolly up the line a bit.” Since then, that’s the dominantly accepted version of the song, and it’s been covered literally hundreds of times that way. The original version has nearly been forgotten.
So this year, if you’re hurting – if your family is in shambles or you’ve had to say goodbye to someone you loved, or whatever it may be – just hold on to the hope that things will get better. You don’t have to have a magical Christmas this year, or for the next decade. You don’t have to “jolly up” your life or work towards some kind of superficial merriment.
You don’t have to hang a shining star anywhere; sometimes you just have to muddle through.